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TOR@MIN: Romero hurls 8 2/3 shutout frames, earns win

MINNEAPOLIS -- After being on the losing end of a no-hitter last time out, Ricky Romero took a run at a no-hitter of his own Friday. The southpaw came up short, but he dominated the Twins in his best outing of the season.

Romero held the Twins hitless through 5 2/3 frames, before giving up a pair of singles. He allowed just two additional hits in his 8 2/3 innings of work as the Blue Jays picked up a 2-0 win at Target Field.

"Ricky was outstanding tonight, there's no doubt about it," manager John Farrell said.

With a runner on in the ninth, Romero was one out away from his second career shutout. But after getting Delmon Young to hit the ball on the ground, it was just beyond the reach of second baseman Aaron Hill.

That forced Farrell to call in his closer.

"He handled Young in the first two at-bats, and I felt like he's up two, and in the worst-case scenario, he's not looking at a loss," Farrell said. "But that was his last hitter he was going to face, regardless of what happened. After that, it was a matter of us finishing out the game and winning it."

With the potential for a loss at that point even after such a dominant performance, would Romero have liked to stay in there to finish it out for his fifth career complete game?

"Absolutely," Romero said. "I think that's your goal any time you're a starter -- you want to finish what you started. I felt good, and obviously you understand why you're coming out in that situation."

Despite collecting 13 hits in the game, the Blue Jays managed just two runs, while leaving 14 runners on base and going just 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Corey Patterson scored the first run for Toronto in the seventh, on a Juan Rivera single.

In the ninth, Jose Bautista smacked his 12th long ball of the season on a 3-2 fastball from Twins reliever Joe Nathan.

"I was just looking for a good pitch to handle, something to hit," Bautista said. "He gave me a lot of them, I just kept fouling them off. That one, I just got ready a little bit earlier, and luckily he threw a fastball middle-in and I was able to connect well with it."

With the win, Romero improved to 4-0 in five career starts against the Twins, including the Blue Jays' 13-3 victory on Opening Day at Rogers Centre. Romero has allowed just eight earned runs on 33 hits in 38 innings of work against the Twins.

The dominant outing for Romero came after he had his shortest outing of the season against the Tigers last Saturday, when he went just 3 1/3 innings and allowed six runs as Justin Verlander no-hit the Blue Jays.

"I prepared well all week to kind of get to this point," Romero said. "After a little rough outing, I think it motivates you even more to come out and just have a good outing for the team and for a much-needed rest for the bullpen."

Romero pitched that game on seven days' rest after his start was bumped back due to an oblique injury, but he was on regular four days' rest on Friday against Minnesota. The lefty faced the minimum through three innings, and he had allowed just two baserunners -- both on walks -- through 5 2/3 innings.

Center fielder Denard Span ripped a single through the infield to left for Minnesota's first hit of the game in the sixth, and was followed by shortstop Trevor Plouffe, who beat out a weak grounder for an infield single. Romero got out of the inning with a grounder to short to keep the Twins off the board.

Romero struck out eight batters against just three walks.

He primarily used his fastball throughout the game, only mixing in offspeed pitches as necessary.

"It was unbelievable," catcher J.P. Arencibia said of Romero's performance. "What's crazy is he threw probably 80-85 percent fastballs and he commanded both sides of the plate.

"He's got so many different weapons. One day, maybe his changeup is on and everyone's just swinging at his changeup, or his breaking ball. But today, he threw cutters and sinkers, and his ball was moving so much in the zone that it's really all he needed to do."

For the Blue Jays, the shutout was the first for the club since Sept. 23, 2010, against the Mariners.

The win was Toronto's third straight, the first time this season the Blue Jays have won three in a row. Now they're looking to improve their hitting with runners in scoring position.

"Yeah, we hope so," Bautista said, "and not necessarily bang out that amount of hits like we did tonight and get all those baserunners. Just cash in and get the timely hits when runners are on base. That would be huge; I know our pitching staff would appreciate it if we could score more runs, so hopefully we can get the offense rolling."

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