As Tampa Bay starts the final series of its 10-game road trip Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, the club will face a pitcher who has silenced its bats throughout his career. Overall, healthy players on the Rays' roster are 18-for-112 (.161) with 32 career strikeouts against the Blue Jays' ace.
The individual numbers are even scarier. Shortstop Sean Rodriguez is 1-for-15 against Romero. First baseman Carlos Pena has one hit in 10 at-bats, and designated hitter Luke Scott also has just a lone base hit in 12 tries. Outfielders Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings are 0-for-12 and 1-for-9 against Romero, respectively.
Interestingly, Romero's start against the Rays comes just one start after he came within two outs of a complete game against the Red Sox -- a team that, historically, he had struggled against more than any other. Regardless of the opponent's success -- or lack thereof -- against Romero, the ace's philosophy on the mound remains the same.
"Consistency, throwing strikes," Romero said when asked what sparked the one-run, three-hit performance over 8 1/3 innings Wednesday. "You throw strikes ... they're going to have to beat you by swinging the bat. I felt like, at times, against Boston I would try to do too much, and walks killed me."
Rays starter Jeff Niemann will look to adopt that same strategy as he tries to get himself into the win column Tuesday. Niemann took a shutout into the fifth inning in his first start against the Tigers, but ultimately suffered the loss after allowing three earned runs in the fifth. Overall, he threw just 59 of his 102 pitches for strikes.
"We're pretty familiar with Toronto," Niemann said. "We know what they're trying to do, so it will be important for us to go out there and set the tone in Game 1 up there. [I want to] give the team a quality outing and see how it turns out."
Rays: Bullpen gets a rest
Tampa Bay has allowed 28 runs in the seventh inning or later, which ranked as the most in the Major Leagues. On Monday, James Shields rested the bullpen with 8 1/3 shutout innings, needing only Fernando Rodney to come in and finish off the 1-0 victory over the Red Sox.
"We shouldn't be that way," right-hander Joel Peralta said before the game. "We should be able to do a better job than we have done until now."
Ben Zobrist started in right field Monday morning against the Red Sox and extended his streak to 247 career games in the outfield without committing an error. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the most of any active player to start their career in the outfield. Zobrist's errorless streak is the longest of its kind since Darren Lewis, who played 392 games in the outfield with San Francisco and Oakland from 1990-94 before his first error.
Blue Jays: Bullpen's solid effort a welcome sight
It may not have been a save situation, but the 1 2/3 scoreless innings from the bullpen in Sunday's 9-2 win over the Orioles certainly came as a relief for manager John Farrell.
Toronto's bullpen, which had squandered late leads in eventual losses in back-to-back contests, entered Sunday with a league-worst five blown saves. In the victory over Baltimore, however, Luis Perez and Evan Crawford combined to allow just one hit in recording the game's final five outs.
"We've put ourselves in a position to win some games late, and when we've mislocated some pitches, we've gotten beat," Farrell said before Sunday's victory. "As a group, we are finding our rhythm, and it's a matter of executing in late-inning situations.
"We still view our bullpen as a definite strength of our club, and I think over the course of this season, we'll experience and know that it will be a strength."
For his career, first baseman Adam Lind is hitting .423 (11-for-26) with five extra-base hits -- including two home runs -- and seven RBIs against Niemann.
The Blue Jays haven't won the season series against the Rays since going 12-6 against Tampa Bay in 2006. Prior to losing each of the last four (plus a tie in 2007), Toronto had lost just one of its first seven season series against the Rays.