NEW YORK, N.Y. – Ricky Romero kept pounding the strike zone, the New York Yankees kept making contact and the ball kept finding the gloves of the Toronto Blue Jays.
When you put it like that, baseball sure does seem like an easy game.
Romero baffled the highest-scoring team in the majors over nine innings Tuesday night, and the free-swinging Blue Jays belted out four home runs during an 8-2 romp that sent the Yankees to their third consecutive loss and dropped them into second place in the AL East.
“I didn’t let anything rattle me,” said Romero, who also prevented Alex Rodriguez from hitting home run No. 600. “The defence played tremendous, the offence did their job and to be able to get through that lineup at Yankee Stadium is phenomenal.”
A-Rod failed to homer for the 12th consecutive game, extending the longest stretch before reaching the milestone of the six players to have done it. New York’s third baseman went 0 for 3 with a strikeout, and is 9 for 46 since his last home run on July 22.
“It’s hard to tell if a guy is pressing,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Right now, he’s in a little funk. Like I’ve said, sometimes these milestones are hard.”
The Yankees have more to worry about than when A-Rod will finally connect. They’ve lost three straight for the first time since June 16-18, and dropped a game behind Tampa Bay in the division after the Rays beat Minnesota. New York had been in first place since June 13.
“No one ever said this was going to be easy. We’re in a tough division and there are going to be bumps in the road for every team,” Girardi said. “We all have to go through it.”
The biggest bump in the road Tuesday night was Romero, who allowed just two hits — a two-run homer by Mark Teixeira in the first and an infield single by Marcus Thames in the fifth — in his third career complete game.
Romero retired the final 15 batters he faced and 26 of the last 27.
“That’s probably one of the better teams in baseball,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “When you beat them and pitch the way he did, that’s really an outstanding job.”
Travis Snider and Jose Bautista hit two-run homers, and Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill also went deep for the major league’s top home-run hitting team. Bautista’s homer was his ninth since the all-star break and his 33rd of the year, by far the most in the majors.
John Buck also drove in two runs as the Blue Jays took advantage of a couple of hanging sinkers from Dustin Moseley (1-1) and every minor miscue by the New York defence.
“We’re doing a good job offensively,” Bautista said. “We’re coming up with big hits when we need them and solo shots here and there. That’s been the recipe for success lately.”
The only blemish against Romero (9-7) came in the first inning, when he walked Derek Jeter and served up a fat 1-2 pitch to Teixeira, who sent it screaming into the seats in left field for his third homer in four games.
“He was really good after that first inning. He gave up a homer on his change-up, it looked like, and then he seemed to go to more curveballs,” Girardi said. “He didn’t walk people, his defence played behind him and he pretty much shut us down.”
The Blue Jays got one back in the second when Buck drove in Adam Lind with a single through the right side, then took the lead for good with three two-out runs in the fourth.
Moseley hit Hill near the left shoulder, and Buck made him pay for it with a double into the left-field corner. The Yankees might have had a chance to get Hill at the plate, but Jeter struggled to fetch the ball from his glove on the relay and his one-hop throw from the edge of the outfield was cut off by Teixeira without a play.
The seemingly minor mistake was costly when Snider homered into the bullpen in right field, staking the Blue Jays to a 4-2 lead. Wells cracked his solo shot in the eighth inning and Hill added his moments later, before Bautista’s two-run shot in the ninth.
When the Blue Jays weren’t beating up on Yankees pitching, they were doing their best to get A-Rod and the folks down the third-base line hopping.
Buck let his bat fly that direction in the second inning, and Edwin Encarnacion let go while striking out in the fourth. His bat had far more distance, though, clattering among the video cameras stationed beyond the visiting dugout about 90 feet away.
Notes: The Blue Jays have hit 167 home runs this season. … The game took a tidy two hours 21 minutes. … Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte (groin strain) threw a half-side session before the game and could throw a full side session Friday. … Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was on hand and nearly caught a foul ball from his seat outside a luxury box above the Blue Jays’ dugout.