TORONTO -- Ricky Romero is doing everything he can to make his previous struggles against the Red Sox a distant memory.
The Blue Jays' No. 1 pitcher had all kinds of trouble against Boston during the early stages of his career, but he appears to have turned a corner in recent outings.
Romero's success continued on Wednesday afternoon, as he came within two outs of a complete game and outdueled Jon Lester to lead the Blue Jays to a 3-1 victory over Boston at Rogers Centre.
"Consistency, throwing strikes," Romero said when asked what sparked the improved results. "You throw strikes ... they're going to have to beat you by swinging the bat. I felt like, at times, against Boston I would try to do too much, and walks killed me. Today, and the last two starts I had against them last year, strike one, pounded the zone and had a good rhythm going."
Romero entered Wednesday's game having struggled against Boston more than any other team in his four-year career. The 27-year-old was 4-6 with a 7.12 ERA in 13 career starts vs. the Red Sox, but those numbers only tell part of the story.
The left-hander began to figure things out in September of last year, when he won back-to-back starts against Boston. Romero began commanding the strike zone with more consistency against his American League East rivals, which led to fewer walks and fewer men on base.
Romero maintained that upward trend Wednesday, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five in 8 1/3 innings to secure his first victory of the season. That included one span from the third inning until the ninth where he retired 17 consecutive batters.
The only real blemish for Romero occurred in the third inning, when he surrendered back-to-back singles with nobody out. Two batters later, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury hit an RBI single to left that scored Mike Aviles from second base.
Romero then settled into a groove and pitched perfectly until the ninth inning, when he walked the first two batters he faced. Romero eventually left to a standing ovation with one out, as he finished just short of recording the eighth complete game of his career.
"They beat the ball into the ground a lot, it seemed like," said Romero, who felt his sinker was a big part of his success. "When you're able to do things like that, you can't get away from it until they make the adjustment. These guys, they're so tough to pitch to sometimes that you have to keep them off balance and make good pitches."
Manager John Farrell went to closer Sergio Santos with one out and runners on second and third in the ninth to protect the slim two-run lead. Santos entered the game having blown his first two save opportunities of the season, but the hard-throwing righty kept things under control for the time he was on the mound.
Santos struck out Kevin Youkilis on a steady diet of sliders before inducing a ground ball off the bat of David Ortiz to end the game and record his first save in a Toronto uniform.
"I knew that I had a chance of getting in the game," Santos said. "I knew it was going to be in a big position, so I just tried to calm myself down as much as possible. I had the adrenalin going, it was just a matter of calming myself down and making pitches."
Toronto's offense had its problems against Lester, who entered the game with a career 10-4 mark against the Blue Jays, to go along with a sparkling 3.06 ERA.
Lester likely would have improved on those past results if not for the performance of Rajai Davis, who went 1-for-2 with a pair of runs scored in just his second start of the year.
In the third, Davis sparked the Blue Jays with a one-out triple to the corner in right field that scored Eric Thames to even the score at 1-1. Yunel Escobar followed with a sacrifice fly to right to put Toronto in front for good.
Davis also helped the Blue Jays add a key insurance run in the eighth. After reaching base on a two-out walk, Davis took off for second on a pickoff attempt by Lester but reached safely and later came around to score on an RBI single by Escobar.
Those were the only three runs charged to Lester, as he struck out six in eight strong innings. He retired 15 batters in a row from the third inning until the eighth but still suffered his first loss of the season and first to the Blue Jays since Aug. 20, 2010.
"That's the nature of the beast against guys like that," Lester said of coming out on the short end against Romero. "I got outpitched again, plain and simple."
With the victory, the Blue Jays secured their second consecutive series win to start the 2012 season. Their nine-game homestand continues on Friday when they begin a three-game series against Baltimore.
"Whether we're at home or on the road, a series win is always a good thing," Farrell said. "We know that we've got to perform better against teams that finished ahead of us a year ago. Today was a first step towards that."