GOODYEAR, Ariz. – If you described blown saves like ankle sprains, Sergio Romo’s performance in the ninth inning Thursday would grade somewhere between mild and moderate.
But Team Mexico’s 6-5 loss to Italy was crippling nonetheless.
Romo entered with a one-run lead and couldn’t protect it, but Italy’s two-run rally had more to do with Mexico’s left fielder than its closer. Infielder Edgar Gonzalez, playing out of position, couldn’t come up with either of two catchable drives hit in his direction.
Anthony Rizzo’s apparent sacrifice fly turned into much more when it popped out of Gonzalez’s glove as Italy scored a pair of runs.
Closer Jason Grilli got Jorge Cantu to ground out with the bases loaded (one #RallyEnchilada short, it would seem) to preserve Italy's upset victory, which dealt a blow to Mexico’s hopes to emerge from a pool that also contains Canada and Team USA.
I was across town at Goodyear and only watched the game on TV, but it was clear to me that Romo wasn’t sharp. Several of his sliders lacked the put-away snap that is so familiar to Giants fans. He couldn’t win an eight-pitch battle with Chris Denorfia, which ended with a sharp single to left field. But that’s to be expected on March 7. It’s not a reflection on Romo’s readiness to serve as the Giants’ primary closer this season, that’s for sure.
Fact is, a competent left fielder almost certainly gets Romo through the inning without allowing a run. Certainly, Romo has a newfound appreciation for Gregor Blanco now. (Andres Torres, too.)
Romo threw 26 pitches – below the limit of 30 – so he’s eligible to take the mound again Friday night against Team USA at Chase Field. You can bet Giants officials would not be pleased if Romo were to approach 30 pitches on back-to-back days. Then again, a quick exit for Mexico would deliver Romo back to the club with plenty of time to manage his workload and get him ready for the season.
Italy takes on Canada on Friday and then will face Ryan Vogelsong, who starts for Team USA against them on Saturday.