Efforts of Lawrie, Lind, Navarro not enough after Romero struggles
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ian Kinsler's third home run of the spring and Don Kelly's grand slam led the Tigers to their third double-digit outburst in four games, earning their fourth consecutive win with an 18-4 decision over the Blue Jays on Tuesday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium.
After three encouraging outings raised the Blue Jays' hopes that former ace Ricky Romero could build his confidence, the once-promising left-hander battled command troubles for much of his 2 2/3 innings. He walked five batters, including his final four of the afternoon, hit Alex Avila in the shoulder with a curveball and tossed two wild pitches. Just 23 of his 57 pitches went for strikes.
Romero entered the day with seven innings of one-run ball this spring despite five walks, thanks in part to six strikeouts.
"I think it was just a matter of not throwing strikes. I think that I just got in trouble with that, falling behind in counts," Romero said. "It was a battle. I've just got to keep moving forward."
Three of the eight outs Romero recorded came on the basepaths, including a pair of runners caught off second for both of his outs in his third and final inning. Three of his seven balls put in play went for base hits, including Austin Jackson's two-run homer in the second inning.
Despite drawing four consecutive walks in the third inning, Detroit scored its lone run that frame when Hernan Perez -- who'd hit a leadoff triple -- bolted home on a pitch in the dirt. Reliever Jeremy Jeffress prevented further damage to Romero by striking out Avila but then gave up three walks himself in the fourth.
The bulk of the damage in the fifth inning came off promising Jays prospect Marcus Stroman, who retired one of the eight batters he faced. Three straight singles following Kinsler's leadoff walk plated one run and loaded the bases for Kelly, who jumped on a full-count fastball and sent it deep to right-center for his second homer of the spring.
Kinsler came back up later in the fifth and turned on a Marcus Walden offering, sending it to the left-field berm to score Ben Guez and Torii Hunter.
Guez, who crossed the street from Minor League camp for a rare start with Rajai Davis scratched as a precaution for his sore right hamstring, went 3-for-3 with two walks. Jackson went 2-for-5 with three runs scored, raising his batting average for the spring to .459.
The support was plenty for Tigers starter Drew Smyly, who gave up two hits and a walk along his way to five scoreless innings, with three strikeouts, against a lineup that featured Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera.
Up next: The Blue Jays will head home on Wednesday to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, where left-hander J.A. Happ will try to get back on track against the Phillies and right-hander Roberto Hernandez. Happ, who once again seems to be in line for a spot in the Opening Day rotation if he's healthy, has given up six runs on six hits and five walks while recording four outs this spring. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.