‘Dude, let me finish this.’ Jordan Romano runs out of gas, but Jays hold off Angels for fourth straight win
ANAHEIM—Faced with yet another tight ball game and an overworked bullpen, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo took a gamble by asking closer Jordan Romano to pitch on a third consecutive day. Based on the results, it’s a move that likely won’t be repeated any time soon.
Romano was called upon to protect a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels and the outing did not go well. The 29-year-old who normally sits around 96 m.p.h., topping out around 98, couldn’t crack 94 as fatigue from frequent use clearly took a toll.
To his credit, Romano gave the Jays everything he had. There just wasn’t much left in the tank. He allowed one run to score on a single by Brandon Marsh and later walked the bases loaded to put the tying run on third and go-ahead run on second with two outs. That’s when Ross Stripling, typically a long reliever, came to the rescue by getting Andrew Velazquez to ground out and secure the 6-5 win.
“That was a concern,” Montoyo said of Romano’s diminished velocity after the fourth-year reliever tossed 58 pitches over the last three days. “Then, of course, he was throwing 93. So Pete (Walker) went out there and the tough Canadian goes, ‘Dude, let me finish this.’ He almost did. Of course, he’s got two days off now. He’s for sure not pitching (on Sunday), but good for him.”
Romano wasn’t the only shaky performer out of the Jays bullpen on Saturday night. In the seventh, Julian Merryweather was brought in to protect a 3-2 lead, but the outing didn’t go well for him, either. After opening the frame by hitting Shohei Ohtani with a pitch, Merryweather then served up a two-run homer to Mike Trout that momentarily looked like it would cost the Jays the game.
The Jays keep hoping Merryweather rediscovers his former self because the native of California is one of the few relievers at Montoyo’s disposal who has swing-and-miss stuff. They want the strikeouts and Merryweather has delivered 12 of them across 12 2/3 innings this season. But when he’s not missing bats, opposing hitters aren’t missing his pitches.
This marked the sixth time in 14 appearances this season that Merryweather allowed at least one run, and the second time in his last four games that he didn’t register an out. His ERA now sits at 7.82 and, even on nights when the Jays are undermanned in the bullpen, Montoyo will have to think twice about using him in another high-leverage spot.
“Our bullpen has thrown a lot,” Montoyo said. “Merryweather, that was the right spot for him. He gave up a two-run homer. There’s no room for error every time our relievers come in and he gave that up, but you have to give our team credit, coming back in that game.”
The Jays looked down and out several times, but they scored two runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth to steal the victory away from the Angels. Matt Chapman hit the go-ahead two-run double in the eighth, while Bo Bichette also chipped in with a two-hit night. They have now scored 24 runs over their last four games after struggling for much of May.
Lefty starter Yusei Kikuchi came away with the no-decision after he limited the Angels to a pair of runs across five innings. The 30-year-old struck out four and walked just one, but also surrendered nine hits and had to pitch his way out of trouble for most of the night.
The Angels had a pair of runners on base during each of the first two innings. They had one more during the third and fourth, but it wasn’t until the fifth when they finally scored two, thanks in part to a double by Matt Duffy. Despite a lot of scary situations, Kikuchi has allowed more than two earned runs in just one start this season as he sports an impressive 3.48 ERA over 40 1/3 innings.
The Jays now have an opportunity to pick up their first sweep of the year with a victory in Sunday’s series finale. They also will have a chance to extend their winning streak to five. The games this week in California haven’t been pretty, but few can argue they have been effective and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.