BOSTON — As his winless streak stretched toward a third month and his ERA continued to climb, Mark Buehrle began to have doubts.
At 36, was he at the end of what had been a steady major league career? Would he eventually snap out of the slump and contribute to Toronto’s surge in the AL East? Would he ever even win another game?
“I guess the older you get, you get a little bit concerned,” he said after earning his first victory in 10 starts since June 1, beating the Boston Red Sox 6-1 on Wednesday night. “I didn’t pitch good, and I didn’t want anyone giving up on me. … There’s a thought in the back of your mind: ’Am I done? Maybe it’s just myself thinking and driving myself crazy. But it definitely feels good (to win).”
Buehrle (11-7) allowed one run on six hits and a walk, striking out two in 6 2-3 innings to snap a six-game losing streak that matched the longest of his career.
Dioner Navarro had three hits and three RBIs to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to their fifth consecutive victory and complete a sweep of the slumping Red Sox.
Toronto has won eight of its last nine and trails first-place Baltimore by 2 1-2 games. And they finally got a contribution from Buehrle, who had won nine in a row to improve to 10-1 before falling into his skid just four wins short of 200 in his career.
“That 11th win was tough to get,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He needed that. I don’t care how good he’s been; how long he’s been in the game.”
Brandon Workman (1-4) fell behind quickly after being called up from Triple-A to replace trade bait Jon Lester. The All-Star left-hander was originally scheduled to start for Boston, but he was scratched while his name is bandied about ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.
As the Red Sox went down in the ninth, fans remaining from the sellout crowd chanted, “Jonny Lester!” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Lester — and the rest of the team — heard it in the dugout
“We were well aware of it, and wouldn’t expect anything less from this fan base that’s fully behind us when we’re doing good or bad,” Farrell said, adding that he had no update on the trade talks.
Workman said the team called him at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday to let him know he would be starting.
“I had heard it might happen with all the rumours and stuff,” he said, adding that it was a bit of a strange night, “but I kept my mind on throwing.”
The game marked a milestone in Boston’s woeful World Series title defence, coming a day before the trade deadline and in the middle of a streak in which the Red Sox have lost eight of nine games, fallen into last place and dropped 13 games behind the East-leading Orioles.
After shipping Jake Peavy to San Francisco on Saturday, the Red Sox sent demoted starter Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Lester, who is due to be a free agent, could follow him; so could John Lackey, who is scheduled to make the minimum next season.
Red Sox: Mike Napoli was back in the lineup, at designated hitter, after sitting out on Tuesday night with a swollen ring finger on his left hand. David Ortiz got the night off.
Blue Jays: Infielder Brett Lawrie, on the disabled list since late June with a broken right index finger, could start rehab games this weekend.
Red Sox: Off Thursday before opening a three-game series with the Yankees. By the time New York gets to town, Boston could be without four-fifths of the starting rotation it started the season with.
Blue Jays: Open a four-game series in Houston, with Drew Hutchinson (7-9) facing Jarred Cosart (9-7).
KICKING IT AROUND
The Blue Jays scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning, thanks to errors by Workman and third baseman Xander Bogaerts.
The Red Sox could be just the third team in the World Series era to finish last the following season, according to baseballreference.com. The 2012 San Francisco Giants fell to fifth place in the NL West last year, and the only other team to plummet so far so quickly was the 1998 Florida Marlins, who sold off their best starters after winning it all in ’97.