Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano making the best of boosted velocity (2023)

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Rob Longley

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Sep 13, 2022September 13, 20227 minute read Join the conversation

Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano making the best of boosted velocity (1)

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Over many of his recent explosive relief appearances, Jordan Romano has reached back for something extra and has been rewarded with a pleasant and powerful surprise.

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And the results have him well on his way to one of the most productive years by a closer in Blue Jays history.

Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano making the best of boosted velocity (2)

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A fastball that was hovering in the 95- to 96-mph range earlier in the summer now lights it up at 98 to 99 mph, almost routinely. The benefits are obvious as it pertains to his heater, but the Markham, Ont., native feels the added velocity is perhaps a bigger plus for his slider.

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“When I’m reaching back and it’s 98 or 99 instead of 96, like it was earlier in the year, that’s definitely helping my game,” said Romano, who entered Tuesday with 33 saves and hadn’t allowed an earned run since Aug. 7. “When the fastball is just 95 and 96, hitters can still adjust more easily.

“I think the added (velocity) makes the slider a little better and, obviously, it’s a little harder to hit the heater.”

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In other words, it’s a potent one-two mix, even if it is a repertoire light on variety compared to some. Heading into Tuesday’s play, Romano, who faced one batter to end the eighth inning in the second half of the double header, had landed on his slider 432 pitches (or 52.6 per cent of the time) while going to the fastball 395 (47.4%).

“He can throw seven straight sliders or five straight fastballs,” Jays starter Kevin Gausman said. “It’s basically two pitches and both of them are great.”

Perhaps the best news for both Romano and the Jays is that he feels stronger now than he has at any point of the season.

“Nearing the end of last season, that’s where I felt my best, too,” Romano said. “I’m not really sure what it is — good solid work every day and staying the course.”

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As for the fastball, which has been creeping closer and closer to triple digits lately, Romano usually has a good idea what kind of night it’s going to be after he unleashes the first one.

“When I’m popping 98 or 99 and it’s in the zone,” the Canadian closer said, “it’s usually going to be a good day.”

SAVE THE DAY

As he continues to pile up the saves, Romano continues to climb among heady company on the Jays all-time season saves list.

His 33 so far is the 11th most, but one more will move him into a tie for eighth at 34 with Tom Henke (twice) and Casey Janssen. While Duane Ward’s club-record 45 is out of reach, Roberto Osuna’s second-best 39 is not.

Meanwhile, Romano has 20 saves at home this season, trailing only Kelvim Escobar (22 in 2002) and Duane Ward (21 in 1993.)

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YOU BET

The standings show a near dead heat in the AL wild-card race between the Jays, Rays and Mariners.

But what do the sports books say about their respective odds to win the World Series?

Over at online bookie Bodog, the Jays are listed as the seventh choice at 15-1, followed by the Mariners at 16-1 and the Rays at 25-1. The Dodgers remain the 3-1 favourites followed by the Astros (3.5-1) and Yankees (3.75-1.)

THE BO SHOW

Clearly there is plenty to marvel at regarding the recent surge from Bo Bichette with this nugget among them: When he belted the game-winning shot on Monday, it was his team-leading 10th go-ahead homer of the year, which speaks to his ability in the clutch.

While it was clear that Bichette was frustrated at times earlier in the year, his teammates could see a process at play that would lead him out of the darkness.

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“The whole (past) week plus for him has just been incredible,” Gausman said. “But even before that, he was on the brink of it and we could all kind of see it. So now it’s just fun to watch and see a guy who is as locked in as he is.”

Specifically, Gausman was impressed with the entire at-bat against superb Rays reliever, Jason Adam and the dramatic two-run shot that followed on Monday. Bichette laid off the nasty stuff from Adam than attacked the pitch he wanted when it finally arrived.

“Savage,” said Gausman. “It shows he is locked in and focussed and has a plan.”

Almost remarkably, Bichette worked his way towards another opportunity with the tying run aboard in the ninth in Tuesday’s first game. What followed was an 11-pitch duel with the Rays’ Pete Fairbanks, ultimately concluding in a game-ending ground out.

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WHITE KNIGHT?

Mitch White acknowledged the obvious with a wry laugh.

“Better than previous outings, yeah,” White said after allowing three runs on seven hits over six innings that were much needed by the Jays in the first half of Tuesday’s doubleheader.

After getting throttled for a combined 18 runs over 12 innings in his three previous starts, it certainly was a well-needed effort by White, acquired at the trade deadline to shore up the back end of the rotation. More importantly, it opened a glimmer of hope for the fifth spot going forward.

White said that conversations from pitching coach Pete Walker and fellow starter Gausman proved invaluable as he seemed to get himself back on track.

“It was simplifying things,” White said. “I think I got myself in trouble trying to overthrow and trying to do too much. Today was all about tempo and rhythm.”

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Meanwhile, White’s didn’t see his day start off so smoothly when he got a call from Jays travel secretary Mike Shaw at 10 a.m., informing him he’d be needed in the first game of the double dip after Alek Manoah called in sick.

WHERE’S THE CROWD?

Maybe it’s the Rays? Maybe it was the hangover effect of the previous, underwhelming homestand? Or maybe the post Labour Day letdown is that much stronger than previous Septembers when the Jays were in a playoff push. Whatever it is, the first two games in the Rays series drew underwhelming crowds to the Rogers Centre — 23,497 for Tuesday’s first game, 25,102 for the nightcap and 23,002 in Monday’s opener of the five games in four days series.

While it’s noted that attendance can typically take a dip for early week games following Labour Day, it didn’t happen in 2015 and 2016, the previous time the Jays had contenders (and access to a full crowd).

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Furthermore, Monday’s attendance was the lowest at the Rogers Centre since 22,897 were at the dome on June 30th for another game again the Rays.

It’s possible that the series is an outlier, given the Jays are averaging a healthy 32,000 per game this season — among the best in the AL — and a doubleheader by definition will split a good portion of the crowd. But it also doesn’t help that heading into the nightcap they were 7-10 in their previous 17 at home while averaging just 2.9 runs per game in that span.

THE RAYS’ WAY

As they showed in the first two games of the series, the Rays can be an excruciating team to face.

They grind at opponents with a variety of arms and a mix of looks and a measured offence that tends to make you earn everything you get.

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In each of the first two contests of this five games in four days set, they took the lead into the eighth inning, which is typical of the way manager Kevin Cash’s team has gone about its business in recent years.

So what makes the challenge so stout?

“They’re a team that throws a lot of different looks at your, they wheel out a lot of different pitchers and going in, you know that more often than not it’s going to be a low scoring game,” said Gausman, who will face the Rays in Thursday’s series finale. “That’s why it’s one pitch here or one pitch there that decides it. Good teams this year find ways to win those kinds of games.”

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The first two contests of this series were illustrative of that.

On Monday, the Jays played mostly clean ball, stayed within a run and scored a 3-2 win thanks to a two-run eighth.

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On Tuesday, there were some sloppy misplays that helped the Rays to enough of an early lead to maintain a 4-2 lead.

“They’re tough,” Gausman said. “They play playoff baseball all year long. They have guys who are ready to go at any given moment because that’s the way they play.”

AROUND THE BASES

Some clutch hitting in the four-run eighth sent the Jays to the win, but the biggest of those had to be a two-RBI double from Whit Merrifield. It’s the kind of moment the former Royal was looking forward to contributing. “I’m fired up,” Merrifield said of the first true playoff push of his big-league career.“I’ve never been a part of it.” … Until the Jays scored a pair of runs in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s opener, they had gone 29 innings without anyone not named Bichette driving in a run … Bichette had a pair of hits in Game 1 giving him his team-best 47th multi-hit game of the season … Cool moment prior to Tuesday’s action when Rays first baseman Jonathan Aranda caught up with Jays catcher, Alejandro Kirk. The two grew up playing baseball as kids in Tijuana, Mexico and are living their big league dreams in the AL East.

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