(bisons.com) - The resurgence of Ricky Romero continued Wednesday night at Coca-Cola Field.
Coming off three straight encouraging starts, he had another against the Gwinnett Braves. The southpaw was in line for his first win in eight total starts for the Buffalo Bisons until the Braves rallied for a pair in the ninth to come back and defeat the Herd, 5-4.
Even on a night he admittedly didn't have his best stuff and velocity, Romero adjusted his strategy and found a way to allow just one unearned run in seven innings of work.
"There's going to be those games where you have it and when you don't have it, and you have to battle with what you have," Romero said. "That's what I did tonight."
"Ricky was outstanding," manager Marty Brown said. "We're seeing him pitch (Wednesday) without his best stuff. That tells you right there, he's making huge strides and getting back to where he needs to be.
"He had to figure out a different game plan after the first inning, and he did it. So I was very, very pleased with what I saw in Ricky."
Exiting with a 4-1 lead after the seventh, the Herd's bullpen was unable to get that elusive initial win as Bison for Romero. A two-run home run in the eighth by Joey Terdoslavich set up a wild top of the ninth.
Buffalo was clinging to a one-run lead with runners on first and second and two outs in the final inning. The lead was shortly after gone on a bloop single to center by Todd Cunningham.
Anthony Gose bobbled the ball when trying to pick the hit up, allowing Jose Yepez to score. He then lofted the ball into the infield. That's when an alert and speedy Jose Constanza, who made it to third on the bobble, took off for home and reached without a throw to give the Braves the lead.
John Stilson pitched the ninth and took the loss and blown save.
Working seven innings was the most Romero has thrown for the Herd, and he added six strikeouts - his previous high this year was three in each of the last three starts - while walking three. He threw only 87 pitches, 53 for strikes, and aside from a 22-pitch second, didn't throw more than 14 pitches in any inning, and tossed only eighth and then six in his final two.
Not having the desired speed, Romero was forced to change his approach to hitters. And, as he has the last three starts, which includes six innings of two-hit, scoreless ball in his previous outing last Friday in Pawtucket, the 2011 All-Star for the Toronto Blue Jays attacked hitters.
Romero noted he wasn't afraid to go at hitters, a mindset that has seemed to turn his season around and lower his ERA from the teens less than a month ago, to 6.69 now.
"Maybe the velocity wasn't there but I had a lot of good sinking action," Romero said. "I think the biggest thing in all of this is learning how to pitch. You can never stop learning in this game and you take a little off and you add a little more whenever you need to. My bread and butter has always been, let the defense work, and that's what I did."
While Romero was in the game, the Braves didn't register multiple hits in any frame. They were able to end Romero's scoreless innings streak at 10 innings in the fifth, though the run was unearned due to a passed ball early in the inning. In Romero's last23 innings, 20 of them have been scoreless.
Romero is beginning to just worry about one pitch at a time to get the best results possible. He knows its cliché, but it's apparent that it is functioning.
"Just staying in the moment and not trying to jump ahead and start thinking 'What's going to happen next?'" Romero said. "Right now, it's just this pitch and throwing at the hitter."
Romero had help in establishing himself in the game. The Bisons were able to get to Braves' starter Yohan Flande and build a 4-0 lead.
Mauro Gomez extended the Herd's lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the third, lifting a 1-2 offering over the fence in left-center. The solo shot was his 19th big-fly of the season, but only the fourth the International League's home run leader has hit at Coca-Cola Field.
The Bisons added even more to the lead later in the inning. Jim Negrych doubled in Moises Sierra and Sean Ochinko plated Negrych when he reached on an error to cap off a three-run inning.
Gomez, the International League's leader in home runs made a bid for his second blast two innings later, unleashing one to straightaway center.
He made a bid for his second blast of the game two innings later, unleashing one to straightaway center. It had home-run distance, but Cunningham made a sensational play to stymie the ball and take away a home run. On the run all the way to the fence, he jumped and reached his mitt back over the wall to make the catch at the pinnacle of his jump.
Missing out on the win won't deter anyone's positive feelings about Romero's strong outing. As it's been the last few starts, Wednesday was another baby step toward Romero getting back to form. Lately, he's been proving the small steps are really the biggest.
"He figured out a way to compete without his best stuff," Brown said. "He mixed his pitches well. He used his two-seamer a lot, his change-up was effective. He didn't throw his breaking ball as much as he did his last outing, but it had tremendous bite to it.
"He's where he needs to be right now. He's inching his way forward to get back to where he was."