DETROIT -- Ricky Romero's frustrating season took another turn in the wrong direction on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Toronto's Opening Day starter couldn't find the strike zone for the first two innings against Detroit, and by the time he regained command, too much damage had already been done.
Romero issued a career-high eight walks to overshadow Edwin Encarnacion's 32nd homer of the year and a late comeback attempt in a 5-3 loss to the Tigers.
"It's baffling, it's tough, I don't know how to put it," a clearly disappointed Romero said after the game. "It just has been a frustrating year, and it just seems like -- What more else can go bad?'
"Something else keeps going on and on and on, it seems like it doesn't stop. But I've always said this: You wake up tomorrow and you just go to work, just keep going forward."
With the erratic outing, Romero has taken over the American League lead for walks, with 87. The ability to consistently throw strikes has been an ongoing battle, as evidenced by the fact that he's walked 5.05 batters per nine innings after entering the year with a 3.5 mark.
Romero joins short listIn the divisional era (since 1969), only a handful of pitchers have walked eight or more while striking out zero in a game.
It has been a disturbing trend for Romero, and though there have been signs of a turnaround -- five quality starts in his previous eight outings -- it was back to square one again in Detroit.
Manager John Farrell believes that some of Romero's struggles might be as much mental as physical.
"He doesn't get through his release point as consistent as when he's in the rhythm and the flow of the game," Farrell said. "Whether those are thoughts that interrupt the freedom in the delivery, there has been a lot of discussion that has centered around that.
"It's the consistency of executing strikes and knowing that the outcome is going to be positive, and not to fear contact and the worst."
The problems began in the very first inning, when Romero surrendered an infield single and eventually walked three consecutive batters en route to the first run of the game. In the second it was more of the same, as he issued free passes to three of the first four batters he faced, and another two runs crossed the plate.
Romero then settled down, found his release point and stayed out of trouble until the sixth. He began that frame with another walk, followed by a pair of defensive miscues by Rajai Davis and David Cooper, and Detroit went on to score another pair of runs.
The 27-year-old Romero was taken out in the middle of the frame having surrendered five runs on six hits and the eight walks. He is now 0-10 with a 7.69 ERA and 1.961 WHIP over his past 11 outings, the longest skid in the AL this season.
Based on the number of walks, his final line could have been a lot worse, but mixed with the bouts of wildness were glimpses of Romero's ace-like past.
"The guy really wasn't missing by a little bit," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He was missing by a bunch, and then all of a sudden, he'd make a nasty pitch when he got in trouble. I don't know if that's luck or by design or what, but he made a nasty pitch on a couple of guys in big situations, tough pitches."
Toronto's lone bright spot against starter Max Scherzer came in the third inning, when Encarnacion hit a solo home run to left field. Encarnacion's 32nd homer of the season and second in the past four games ended the scoreless drought. It was the only run Scherzer would surrender while striking out eight over seven innings.
The Blue Jays cut into the lead in the top of the eighth inning with a pair of runs. Encarnacion, Cooper, Yunel Escobar and rookie Moises Sierra recorded four consecutive hits for a pair of runs, but that was as close as it would get.
Toronto's record for August dropped to 5-14 with the loss; the Blue Jays haven't won a series since they took two of three from Detroit on July 27-29 at Rogers Centre.
As for Romero, the club continues to search for answers in what has become a mystifying season.
"Well, we haven't thrown our hands in the air," Farrell said. "We continue to support, review video, see some of the physical and fundamental things, but yet inside the game, he has been on a tough stretch for quite a while -- as we're all well aware of -- and it's a matter of continuing to execute the things that he has control over, and that's one pitch at a time."