Even when Ricky Romero thinks he's pitching well, hitters are taking advantage of his mistakes.
Michael Saunders and Kyle Seager had two hits apiece to help the Seattle Mariners beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Monday night for their fifth straight win, handing Romero his seventh consecutive loss.
After starting the season 8-1, Romero's record is now even and his ERA has ballooned to 5.69.
In his latest loss, Romero (8-8) allowed three runs in the first two innings, before settling down. In the fifth, consecutive doubles nicked him for another run. He finished allowing eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in six innings.
"I felt like I could put it wherever I wanted to — that's me," Romero said. "Obviously you don't want to give up runs, especially early on and it seems like almost every mistake that I've made this year, gets hit."
Despite the loss, Toronto manager John Farrell thinks Romero is improving.
"I think overall, there was much more conviction and trust and belief in his stuff," Farrell said. "Evident by the first pitch strikes; he used his fastball much more aggressively. Still not to the point where we've seen Ricky pitch many times before but I think this is a step in the right direction."
The Toronto offence did little to help Romero.
Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma (2-2) pitched eight innings and set a Mariners rookie record with 13 strikeouts. Lucas Luetge got the final out in the ninth for his first career save.
Iwakuma blended offspeed pitches with a darting 93-mph fastball to keep one of the American League's top offences off-balance. He broke his season-high in strikeouts when he got Rajai Davis in the fifth inning. He struck out Davis three consecutive times after allowing Davis' first career leadoff homer, which gave the Blue Jays a brief 1-0 lead.
Iwakuma struck out at least one in each inning. Brett Lawrie struck out four times and snapped his bat over his knee in the dugout following one at-bat.
"(Iwakuma) was fantastic tonight," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "We really needed him to step up."
Jays ship Snider to Pirates
The Blue Jays also made a mid-game trade, sending outfielder Travis Snider to the Pittsburgh Pirates for right-hander Brad Lincoln. Snider was called off the field after he headed out to left field to start the seventh inning, then packed his bats and received hugs and handshakes in the dugout.
Farrell said Lincoln will be used out of the bullpen. The Blue Jays also made a trade with the Mariners during the game, sending outfielder Eric Thames to Seattle in exchange for hard-throwing reliever Steve Delabar. Thames was in Triple-A Las Vegas.
Delabar will be the second Seattle player in a week to go from the home clubhouse down the hall. Seattle traded Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees last Monday when the Yankees were in town.
The Mariners tacked on a run in the third after Mike Carp singled and was pushed around the bases by poor Toronto execution. A wild pitch from Romero was followed by a passed ball a batter later to send Carp to third. An error by Lawrie on a hard grounder from Brendan Ryan scored Carp and put Seattle up 3-1.
Michael Saunders, who had two hits, doubled to right in the fifth to drive in Ryan, who had also doubled, to cap the scoring.
The Mariners loaded the bases in the first inning after Jesus Montero's line drive hit second base umpire Tony Randazzo. Randazzo jumped and spun to avoid the liner, but it struck him in the left side.
By rule, a ball that strikes an umpire and stays in the infield is a dead ball. That's why Dustin Ackley, who was on third, returned to the base. John Jaso grounded into a double play, with Ackley scoring.
Seager extended his major league-leading two-out RBI total with a single to left to bring in Saunders and put Seattle in front 2-1.
Davis' leadoff homer delighted the large number of Blue Jays fans in Safeco Field. The fans opened the game by singing along to, "O, Canada" and dispatched a rousing cheer following Davis' sixth homer of the year.
But, that would be all the Blue Jays could muster against Iwakuma.