What’s going on with Ricky Romero and his 5.75 ERA?

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Ricky Romero showed a steady progression in his first three seasons, as his ERA went from 4.30 to 3.73 to 2.92 with similar improvements in walk rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

He emerged as a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Blue Jays last season, making his first All-Star team at age 26 and throwing 225 innings with a 2.92 ERA. And now he can’t get anyone out.

Romero failed to make it out of the second inning last night against the A’s, walking six batters and coughing up eight runs as his ERA ballooned to 5.75. It was the fourth time in his last six starts that Romero has allowed six-plus runs and in his last dozen starts he’s allowed 59 runs in 64 innings with nearly as many walks (38) as strikeouts (43).

His strikeouts are down and his walks are up, although Romero’s average fastball velocity of 91.1 miles per hour is pretty close to his career mark of 91.5 mph. Despite that similar velocity batters have teed off on his fastball, with Fan Graphs showing the pitch being worth 12.5 runs below average compared to 15.5 runs above average during the previous two seasons. And that negative mark for this year doesn’t even include last night’s clobbering.

I’m not smart enough to explain why, but Romero’s fastball is getting knocked around this year after previously being an excellent pitch and suddenly the young left-hander the Blue Jays thought would be atop their rotation for years to come thanks to a $30 million contract extension is a complete mess.

Video: Cole Tucker’s first MLB hit is a two-run homer

Cole Tucker
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Pirates prospect shortstop Cole Tucker stepped up for an injured Erik González on Saturday and wasted little time proving that he was ready to shoulder major-league responsibilities. After starting the game 0-for-2, Tucker pounced on Derek Holland‘s 2-2 sinker and sent it out to center field for a two-run shot in the fifth inning.

Following the tie-breaking blast, Tucker responded to cheers from the crowd with… perhaps a little more ceremony than the occasion required. He was the second of the Pirates’ prospects to record his first major-league hit during the game, as outfielder Bryan Reynolds also hit a single off of Holland in the fourth.

Jung Ho Kang struck out to end the inning, after which a rain delay was called. The Pirates currently lead the Giants 3-1.