On Sunday, lefty Enny Romero made his major league debut, two years to the day that Matt Moore made his first start and five years to day that David Price made his initial outing. But unlike Moore and Price, the circumstances could not have been stranger. Out of starting pitchers after using both Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Hellickson in Friday’s 18-inning contest, the Rays had to find another pitcher to start. That pitcher turned out to be Romero. But while Price and Moore were polished pitchers poised to become aces of the Rays’ staff, Romero was much more raw. Romero was coming off a season at Double-A where he put up a 2.76 ERA but just a 1.51-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio, and he had made a grand total of one start at Triple-A. His fastball in the mid-90′s was dominant, but he couldn’t always control it, and his secondary pitches showed promise but were total works in progress. But aside from his stuff, Romero had one big thing working in his favor: the Orioles had seen him for exactly one game, his start against their Triple-A affiliate, and that was it. Romero did not show the command necessary to be a major league starter right now, but at least for one game, he made sure the Orioles stayed in the dark.
Enny Romero’s final line for his major league debut is one of the strangest you will ever see. Romero went 4.2 innings allowing no runs on just 1 hit but striking out none while walking 4. Romero became just the second pitcher in major league history to go at least 4 innings allowing 1 or fewer hits, 4 or more walks, and not striking out a single batter in his major league debut (the other was Anthony Telford on 8/19/90). He was extremely fastball reliant, throwing it for 58 of his 70 pitches (82.9%), and his fastball showed outstanding movement, mostly towards right-handed batters but occasionally away from them. However, while he threw some perfectly placed fastballs, Romero had several instances where he totally lost the plate and delivered a series of offerings hitters didn’t even think about swinging at. His changeup showeds some downward movement but rarely looked anything like a strike, and his breaking ball didn’t break much at all. Yet the entire game, the Orioles were helpless against him. After Manny Machado‘s single to lead off the game, the next time the Orioles reached base by anything other than a walk was Kelly Johnson‘s two-out error in the fifth that prompted Joe Maddon to remove Romero from the game. Romero’s pitches moved so dynamically that Orioles hitters could do nothing but put the ball in play weakly whenever he was around the zone. For this game, that proved to be enough. Striking out none and walking four is not a winning formula, but it was enough for Romero in this game, and that’s all the Rays were asking for.
The Rays supported their rookie lefty at the first possible opportunity as David DeJesus drilled a leadoff home run off Scott Feldman, a pitcher who was his teammate as recently as early July with the Chicago Cubs. But with some help from the Rays offense failing to come through in the clutch, Feldman settled down for quite a while from there. He stranded a Wil Myers double in the second inning and a Desmond Jennings 2-out double followed by a Ben Zobrist walk in the third, and he retired seven in a row from the final out of the third to the final out out of the fifth. But in the 6th, Desmond Jennings broke through with a perfectly executed bunt single. The bunt got the Rays going, but it also got Jennings out of the game a few pitches later with hamstring tightness. The Rays will have to hope that he is alright. In any event, Sam Fuld pinch-ran for Jennings and ended up on third base when ball four to Ben Zobrist was also a wild pitch, and he subsequently scored on a Matt Joyce sac fly. James Loney capped the rally with an RBI single as the Rays took a 3-0 lead. Feldman went 6.1 innings allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. The contrast between Feldman’s perfect-placed 85 MPH cutters and Romero’s erratic 95 MPH fastballs was as wide as you’ll ever see, but the Rays managed to take advantage of Feldman’s mistakes to get him for three runs.
The Rays bullpen was outstanding for their first 3.1 innings of work, with Brandon Gomes, Wesley Wright, Jamey Wright, and Joel Peralta combining to pitch perfect ball with 4 strikeouts. Given how well Rays pitchers were doing, even a 1-0 lead seemed like it would be enough. But funny things happen in baseball, and it made the Rays appreciate even more those two tack-on runs they got against Feldman. With one on and two outs in the 9th, Matt Wieters hit a popup towards right field that seemed sure to end the game, but it hit off one of the B-ring catwalks on the ceiling of Tropicana Field and wound up falling for an RBI double. Thanks to the Rays’ 3-run cushion, though, the bad break was meaningless as the Rays won 3-1. Romero came up one out short of a victory, but his shutout performance set the tone for another strong day for the Rays pitching staff as they won their third straight game over the Orioles. The two teams will meet one last time on Monday at 3:10 PM with the Orioles sending out Wei-Yin Chen against the Rays’ Chris ARcher.