Ricky Romero used to struggle against the Boston Red Sox. Not anymore.
Romero outdueled Jon Lester, Yunel Escobar drove in two runs and the Toronto Blue Jays beat Boston 3-1 Wednesday to drop the Red Sox to 1-5.
"Ricky was the story here today," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
Romero (1-0), who won just two of his first 11 career starts against the Red Sox, beat Boston for the third straight time. He earned back-to-back victories over the Red Sox during their historic swoon last September, beating them Sept. 8 at Toronto and Sept. 14 at Fenway Park.
The left-hander credited improved control and aggressiveness for his recent success against the Sox.
"I think at times against Boston I tried to do too much and walks killed me against them," Romero said. "I looked at video of my two (September) starts against them last year and it was just strike one, pound the zone and I had a good rhythm going against them."
Boston's Dustin Pedroia called Romero "one of the best lefties in baseball," and Kevin Youkilis was just as complimentary.
"He's very effective," Youkilis said. "He's the ace of that staff for a reason."
Other than a third inning that saw the teams combine for five hits and three runs, the two starters were perfect until Lester (0-1) issued a two-out walk to Rajai Davis in the eighth, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive outs. Davis promptly stole second, beating the tag on a failed Red Sox pickoff play, then scored on Escobar's single to center.
Romero saw his streak of 17 straight outs end when Jacoby Ellsbury and Pedroia drew back-to-back walks to begin the ninth. He left to a standing ovation after Adrian Gonzalez flied out to center, with both runners advancing on the play.
Sergio Santos came on to strike out Youkilis, then ended it by getting David Ortiz to ground out. The save was the first of the season for Santos, who had blown his first two chances.
"There was quite a bit on my mind just because of everything that's happened," said Santos, who coughed up the lead in the ninth inning of Monday's home opener. "It was nice to block all that out, get out there and throw some effective pitches."
Romero allowed three hits, all singles, in 8 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.
Lester allowed three runs and three hits in eight innings, walked three and struck out six in his seventh career complete game. Lester, who was beaten by Detroit's Justin Verlander on opening day last Thursday, has not won since beating the Blue Jays at Toronto last Sept. 6, a span of six starts.
"You can't ask for him to throw the ball any better than that," Pedroia said. "I feel horrible for him."
Romero set down the first six batters he faced before giving up a run in the top of the third. Cody Ross and Mike Aviles led off with back-to-back singles but Ross was forced out at third on Kelly Shoppach's attempted sacrifice bunt. Ellsbury followed with an RBI single to left, but Romero recovered by striking out Pedroia and getting Ortiz to ground out.
Lester, who had also retired the first six Blue Jays batters, couldn't hold the lead. Eric Thames singled to begin the bottom half, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Davis' one-out triple into the right field corner. Escobar followed with a sacrifice fly.
A year after losing their first six games to start the season, the Red Sox are 1-5 as they back to Fenway for Friday's home opener against Tampa Bay.
"Obviously it's not the way we wanted to start," Lester said. "Nobody wants to start this way."
"We're not playing good right now," Lester added. "The game's we've pitched well we don't hit, the game's we don't pitch well, we hit. We haven't put it together right now. Nobody in this clubhouse wants to start slow, regardless of years past."
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista went 0 for 3, extending his slump to 0 for 12. Bautista's last base hit was an eight-inning single in Sunday's 4-3 loss at Cleveland.
Bautista's hitting woes aren't hurting his play in right field: he made a sliding catch on Adrian Gonzalez to end the sixth, one of several fine defensive plays by the Blue Jays. Third baseman Brett Lawrie had the other highlight play, a diving catch of Cody Ross's liner to begin the fifth.
Notes: The game was played in a brisk 2:13. ... Blue Jays OF Ben Francisco made his first start of the season at designated hitter, while 1B Adam Lind was given the day off and replaced by Edwin Encarnacion. ... Toronto Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul attended the game, and was booed when he was shown on the scoreboard. ... The Red Sox are off Thursday before opening their home schedule Friday against the Rays, with Josh Beckett (0-1) facing David Price (1-0).