Jordan Romano rocked again as Blue Jays blanked by Yankees in dud start to homestand

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When the light show plays and it’s last call at the Rogers Centre, Blue Jays manager John Schneider has an unwavering belief in his Canadian closer, Jordan Romano.

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That confidence may have taken a bit of a body blow on Tuesday night when Romano was rocked for a second consecutive outing as the Jays’ surge to lock up a post-season berth was stalled in frustrating fashion.

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When Romano missed his spot on a crucial pitch in the top of the ninth, Yankees catcher Austin Wells jumped at it, sending a ball into the Jays left field bullpen that the reliever had been warming up in mere minutes earlier.

Just like that, with one swing of a New York Yankees bat, the Jays were on their way to a 2-0 loss at home, a thud ending in front of another crowd of 40,000 plus.

Combined with a similar Romano collapse on Saturday, there are certainly some questions surrounding the Markham, Ont. native at this the most crucial time of the season.

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As he has throughout his time as Jays manager, Schneider is standing by his man, even as the stakes continue to pile up.

“The great thing about Jordy is that when he comes through the gate … everything that leads up to that inning, he’s prepare mentally and physically,” Schneider said after his team fell to 87-70 overall and a befuddling 41-35 at home. “The life of a closer is tough and you have to have a very short-term memory.

“You look at the result, it wasn’t ideal tonight or Saturday, but you look at the overall body of work and you look at the stuff and the stuff was there.”

There will be some questioning that assessment, of course, even if Romano’s 36 saves are second most in the AL.
It just took three pitches for the fiery right-hander to undo what had been a tight and scoreless game, one in which the Jays managed just two hits prior to the ninth and three overall.

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They had opportunities to score, despite the shut down work of Yankees starter Michael King, but continued the season-long affliction of being unable to cash in. Pitching and defence has carried them a long way — and almost bailed them out again on Tuesday — but it’s risky business.

And now a week in which a 3-3 record would have all but guaranteed them a playoff spot, there’s more to do.

It certainly won’t get any easier on Wednesday night when the benign Jays hitters face Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who will be looking to put the punctuation on a Cy Young Award-winning season.

The Jays still control their own destiny, but continue to make life difficult on themselves.

“To be in the last week of the season with still kind of a question mark is fun and exciting and stressful, but that’s what you want,” said Jays ace starter Kevin Gausman, who, incredibly, had yet another brilliant night yet had no run support as accompaniment. “As a player, to be in this situation and be able to control your own destiny, is all you can hope for.”
Gausman is being deliberately positive here, of course, for the Jays could have hoped for much more than that. They had never intended not expected to come into the final week of the season needing wins to secure a wild card spot, but here they are.

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Clinching a spot now seems at least a couple days away and the way things are going, could actually extend to the weekend, adding stress and tension along the way. The Jays are very much in the driver’s seat, but have to keep the wheels on the road.

Gausman acknowledged as much, admitting he will have to keep himself ready for a possible start on Sunday, even though the team hope would be that the season finale would be moot and their ace could be rested and pointed to a wild-card round opener.

“You just go as if I’m pitching Sunday,” said Gausman, who began Tuesday’s game with five no-hit innings before allowing a single to Estevan Florial to open the sixth. “Everything after that, we’ll need to adjust.

“Obviously we need to win more games. I’m going to prepare like I’m pitching Sunday and if I’m not, we’ll get to that when we get to that.”

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Back to Romano, who certainly finds himself in the spotlight now, Schneider said the fingernail issue that had become a flashpoint in a blown save in Tampa on Saturday was no longer an issue. The manager didn’t hesitate going to his closer with the game tied at 0-0 on Tuesday.

“His stuff was good,” Schneider began. “You can’t throw fastballs down to Wells. You have young dudes who are trying to get the ball in the air and he just missed his location there.

“It’s one of those things where you get your closer in and some nights like tonight, it doesn’t work out.”

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AROUND THE BASES

Sure, the Jays were able to manufacture some runs to take two of three over Tampa on the weekend, but the offence continues to be an issue. On Tuesday, they were shut out for the 10th time and held to three hits or fewer for the ninth time … Gausman is a pure workhorse for the Jays, throwing 105 pitches and reaching the centre mark for an AL-leading 18th time this season. He also leads the league in strikeouts (237) and he had his ninth start of at least seven innings, allowing just three hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts.

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