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Must C Crushed: Arencibia launches one

TORONTO -- Ricky Romero is in the process of putting the finishing touches on his best season to date in the Major Leagues.

With three weeks to go until the end of the year, though, there was still one item the left-hander needed to check off his list of accomplishments -- pitching effectively against the Red Sox.

Romero overcame his career-long struggles against Boston by tossing 6 2/3 quality innings in the Blue Jays' 7-4 victory on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.

"I just came out and I was aggressive," said Romero, who allowed just three runs. "I was down in the zone with strikes and made them chase pitches out of the zone. I think that's what you have to do with these guys. You can't fall behind, because once you fall behind, you get in trouble."

Romero entered the game with a 2-8 record and an 8.08 ERA in eight starts against Boston. That was Romero's highest ERA against any opponent, and the Red Sox were hitting .357 against the third-year starter.

Following his last start against Boston -- a six-run outing -- Romero vowed to make changes the next time he faced the club. That took place Thursday night, as Romero went in with a gameplan of throwing his curveball early and often against the current leaders in the American League Wild Card race.

The 26-year-old's effective use of the offspeed pitches and impressive command throughout most of the game resulted in his first victory against Boston since Sept. 18, 2010. He allowed just five hits while striking out seven in his 22nd quality start in 29 games this year.

"I think the one thing it proves to Ricky is that he learned from his past experiences," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He made some adjustments, went out and executed, and it proved to be a successful formula."

Romero's outing initially looked like it was going to get off to a rough start. In the first inning, he surrendered a leadoff double to Jacoby Ellsbury on a blooper to right-center field. Ellsbury advanced to third on a bunt, but Romero then recorded a strikeout and a groundout to end the frame without any damage.

Toronto's ace then went into cruise control and didn't allow another baserunner to reach scoring position until the fifth, when right fielder Josh Reddick doubled off the wall in center field, but was left stranded.

Romero's only real difficulty occurred in the seventh. He retired two of the first three batters, but then appeared to lose command of his pitches. Romero allowed a single, which was followed quickly by an RBI double off the bat of Ellsbury.

That was it for Romero, who departed with a 5-1 lead. Right-hander Casey Janssen entered and surrendered a two-run single to Marco Scutaro before pitching his way out of the inning.

Romero improved to 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in his past 10 starts overall, nine of which have been won by the Blue Jays.

"He's got that good split-change," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "He was strike one at different times. When you're battling from a 4-0 lead, you have to try to make him throw strikes. He had that ability. Really those two pitches were big for him today -- that fastball and the split-change."

Toronto opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning off starter Andrew Miller. Three consecutive singles led to the first run of the game and set the table for a three-run homer by J.P. Arencibia. Toronto's starting catcher now has 22 home runs on the season, which is just two shy of the franchise record for rookies set by Eric Hinske.

The Blue Jays added one more in the third on Edwin Encarnacion's 16th homer of the season. The power then went out for a brief spell before returning in the seventh, courtesy of Eric Thames. Toronto's rookie outfielder sent a solo shot over the wall in right for his 10th of the year.

Miller was charged with five runs in five innings. He allowed eight hits and two walks while striking out three.

Toronto received at least one hit from seven of its starting nine position players. David Cooper, who was recently promoted from Triple-A, also made an impact in his first start since May 14 by going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a pair of RBIs.

"We have a good crop of young guys that are coming through that are good players," Arencibia said. "The guy led the [Pacific Coast] League in hitting for a reason. ... He's a really good hitter and we've got a good bunch of young guys."

Toronto took three of four from Boston. That improved the club's performance to 7-9 vs. the Red Sox this season, with the two teams playing against each other for the final time in a series that starts Tuesday.

That will provide Romero with another opportunity to face his divisional rivals and for others to forget about his past woes.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Romero said. "I don't really care how I've done against them in the past. I think I have them next start. I have them out in Boston. I'll get ready for them again and just hope we can come out on top."

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