He knew early on he didn’t have his best stuff.
But that’s when Ricky Romero found his way through, giving him his second straight quality performance.
Unfortunately for Romero, the Bisons lost the lead in the ninth inning as the Gwinnett Braves came from behind to earn a 5-4 win in front of 5,578 at Coca-Cola Field Wednesday night.
Romero pitched a gem for seven innings, giving up just one unearned run on five hits. He had three walks, six strikeouts and one wild pitch.
And he did it all without feeling his best, without great velocity and without what he called his best stuff.
“Ricky outstanding,” Bisons manager Marty Brown said. “We’re seeing him pitch without his best stuff. That tells you right there, he’s making huge strides and getting back to where he needs to be.”
It was Romero’s second straight quality outing, after throwing six shutout innings in a no-decision at Pawtucket on Friday. He gave up just two hits with three walks and three strikeouts, throwing 83 pitches.
“It’s baseball. It is what it is,” Romero said. “There are going to be those days where you feel really, really good like I did last start and there’s going to be days where you really don’t feel that good, but you’ve got to fake it, man. The hitters don’t know that and the other teams don’t know that.
“At the end of the day when the head hits the pillow, you feel proud about that. Hey, I really didn’t have that good of stuff, and I battled myself through seven innings.”
Romero has done that over his last three outings. Over his last 20 innings, Romero has given up only four runs, three of them earned. Included was a stretch of 10 scoreless innings.
The Bisons gave Romero a 4-0 lead, scoring in the first on a two-out RBI triple by Moises Sierra. They added three in the third on a homer by Mauro Gomez, an RBI double by Jim Negrych and an error on a slow infield chopper hit by Sean Ochinko.
The Braves rallied on an RBI grounder in the fifth and a two-run homer by Joey Terdoslavich in the eighth off reliever Joel Carreno.
With two out and two runners on base in the ninth, Anthony Gose poorly fielded a ball hit to shallow center by Cunningham. The tying run scored on the hit and the winner scored on when Gose mishandled the ball and failed to get it back into the infield in a timely fashion.
“Anthony knows better than that, too,” Brown said. “We have to get his head removed from a place it shouldn’t be.
“For the life of me, I’ve had some players as a manager who have really been challenging. Anthony is one of the most talented players I’ve had as a manager. But sometimes it’s difficult because he doesn’t apply that. It’s nothing we can’t work through.”
Right-hander Justin Germano (4-5, 6.22 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Herd today as they close out the four-game series with Gwinnett (1:05 p.m., TWCS, Radio 1520). The Braves will counter with righty David Hale (1-3, 5.28 ERA).