(bisons.com) - Ricky Romero is starting to build momentum.
He had what manager Marty Brown considered his best of six starts for the Buffalo Bisons Friday night.
Romero had his second-longest outing of the season in the first game of a doubleheader against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in front of 8,827 fans at Coca-Cola Field, and the Bisons won the game late, 4-3. However, the IronPigs, the third-place team in the International League North, bounced back to shutdown second-place Buffalo in the nightcap and series finale, 4-0.
In the first of two seven-inning contests, Buffalo overcame a 3-2 sixth-inning deficit to get its only win of the four-game set. Lehigh Valley, which won the series, 3-1, tagged Romero for three runs in the sixth, which proved to be the lone trouble for Romero.
Luis Jimenez and Mike McCoy were not to let a good outing by him go for naught.
Jimenez led off the sixth and lifted the first pitch he saw from IronPigs' starter Ethan Martin over the center-field wall to tie the game. McCoy lined a one-out RBI single to drive in the winning run, Moises Sierra.
"Pounding the strike zone and put the ball in play and the defense did a good job of playing behind me, and they did a good job of coming back," Romero said. "...I gave the team a chance to win and at the end of the night, that's the greatest satisfaction."
Romero, the 2011 All-Star with Toronto who was 1-15 with a 7.60 ERA in the big leagues since last June, took another step forward toward regaining the form that once made him a 15-game winner north of the border.
Romero continued his reclamation in his second start at Coca-Cola Field, and yielded assuring results for the second straight game. It was also his second start after being outrighted to Buffalo, denoting he is no longer on Toronto's 40-man roster.
Coming off a season-high six innings pitched last Saturday in Norfolk, a start in which he allowed five runs but retired nine of the final 10 batters faced and didn't issue a walk, Romero was similarly effective Friday. He fanned three and allowed three runs on seven hits while walking two over 5 2/3 innings.
"It's good to be able to carry it over," Romero said. "It's going to take a little bit of work, it's baby steps now and I'm looking at the positives and that's what I've been doing. In all, it was a pretty good outing."
His final line can even be misleading. Starting with the third out of the second to the first of the sixth, the former first-round pick retired 11 straight.
He also found the strike zone with regularity, tossing 52 of his 88 pitches for strikes. Romero was most efficient in the first five innings, which consisted of just 63 pitches, 39 for strikes, including a seven-pitch third frame.
"It's a good feeling when you know you're getting up and down really quick," Romero said. "You get out of the dugout, you come back in quick. It's totally different when you're able to do that. When you're doing that, it's because you're throwing strikes and that's what I did today."
The 28-year-old was rolling, and then, he ran into trouble. All three of the IronPigs' runs and four of their seven hits came in the sixth inning off Romero. The frame featured 25 pitches over 2/3 of an inning and he was lifted from the game after the IronPigs took a 3-2 lead on three separate RBI base knocks.
"Think about that last inning, I think well-placed balls, he made some good pitches," Brown said. "A ball went through the left side and then the jam-shot double.
"I think he kind of feels snake-bitten when he gets to that part of the game. But I was very pleased with what I saw."
John Stilson took over for Romero and inherited runners on second and third. But he quickly ended the threat without any further damage, as John Sumoi flew out to center on the first pitch he saw.
Other than the tough sixth inning, nothing but encouragement came from the start.
Command, which has was a struggle for Romero last year in Toronto and in his first few starts in Buffalo, has been marginalized. And for the second consecutive contest, his earned run average dropped. After lasting just 2/3 of an inning May 27, Romero's ERA has dropped from 13.85 to 10.22.
"He's still trying to find the same rhythm out of the stretch as he has in the windup," Brown said. "But I see him getting better each time out."
Jim Negrych gave Romero a lead and the game a score in the fourth with an RBI double and Gose wasted no time contributing once again for the Herd. He also doubled in a run the next inning to make it 2-0. Stilson picked up the win, allowing just a walk over 1 1/3 innings.
The Herd couldn't solve IronPigs' starter Greg Smith in the second game.
The Bisons managed only three hits, all off Smith, who struck out a pair over 5 1/3 innings to pick up the win in the shutout.
"We didn't do a lot off Smith, he pitched against us," Brown said. "The first game, fortunately for us and Ricky, we took the lead. We just didn't swing the bats like we had been.
"It's more about a plan than anything. It's about making sure you get good pitches and I think sometimes we lose sight of that."
Justin Germano took the mound for the Herd and was strong through six innings before the IronPigs score three insurance runs off him in the top of the seventh. The right-hander gave up all four runs, two were earned, on six hits and struck out one in six innings of work while falling to 4-5.