Toronto starter Mark Buehrle can’t recall making a season-opening run quite like the one he’s currently enjoying with the Blue Jays.
The 35-year-old left-hander was in top form again Wednesday night, throwing seven innings of three-hit ball in a 10-0 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies at Rogers Centre. Buehrle (6-1) leads the American League with six victories and his earned-run average dropped to an impressive 1.91.
“I don’t want to ask too many questions, I don’t want to try to figure out what’s going on,” he said. “I’m just going to kind of roll with it and keep it as long as I can.”
Toronto exploded for nine runs in the seventh inning. Erik Kratz, Juan Francisco and Edwin Encarnacion all homered in the frame as the Blue Jays (17-17) returned to the .500 mark.
Sergio Santos and Chad Jenkins completed the three-hit shutout as Toronto extended its winning streak to four games. Philadelphia starter Cliff Lee (3-3) was in form until the seventh, ending his streak of six straight quality starts.
“Some balls ended up over the plate and they didn’t miss them,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.
Buehrle put runners in scoring position on a few occasions but for the most part kept the Philadelphia batters handcuffed by mixing up his pitches and relying on a steady curve ball.
“He does what he typically does,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “He keeps them off-balance, throws anything at any time and uses his defence. I don’t know if I can describe it any more than that — again.”
Gibbons smiled as he made the comment. He was then asked if he’s getting tired of describing the steady approach of the reliable veteran, who has already gone into the seventh inning without allowing an earned run on three occasions this year.
“All he does is keep winning,” Gibbons added. “He does the same thing every time he wins. Just hit rewind.”
With two quick-working starters on the mound, the game sped along at a quick pace. Lee (3-3) retired the first seven Blue Jays in order before giving up a one-out single to Colby Rasmus in the third inning. Rasmus moved to third base on a ground-rule double by Steve Tolleson and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Reyes.
The Phillies had threatened an inning earlier but Toronto’s defence kept them off the board.
Marlon Byrd hit a one-out double and Tolleson made a nice play to scoop a slow roller near second base to retire Domonic Brown. Toronto right-fielder Jose Bautista recorded the third out by making a nice running catch at the warning track on a John Mayberry Jr. fly ball.
Bautista showed his range again in the sixth inning with a great diving pickup on a sinking Chase Utley liner. Buehrle followed by striking out Carlos Ruiz. The Phillies had a runner on second base in the seventh inning but Buehrle got Cody Asche on a weak grounder for the third out.
Encarnacion led off the Toronto half of the seventh with a standup triple. Philadelphia outfielder Ben Revere misplayed the ball, allowing it to bounce off the wall and roll back into centre field.
“It looked like he gave up on it and it hit the bottom of the wall,” Sandberg said. “Catchable ball. Things unravelled from that point forward. I could imagine there could be some frustration there with Cliff at that point. He was out there battling and involved in a pitcher’s duel up to that point.”
Kratz took the next pitch from Lee into the second deck in left field for his second homer of the season. Dioner Navarro followed with a single and he scored when Francisco’s line-drive homer barely cleared the wall in right field.
“Just one of those innings where they hit everything,” Lee said. “They didn’t miss a pitch.”
Lee was pulled after giving up a one-out double to Tolleson. Mario Hollands came on in relief and threw a wild pitch to Reyes that allowed Tolleson to advance to third.
Reyes walked, stole second and moved to third when Cabrera struck out on a wild pitch. The ball got away from Ruiz and Tolleson scored while Cabrera ran to first.
The Phillies went to the bullpen for former Blue Jay Shawn Camp, who promptly gave up a single to Bautista. Encarnacion followed with a three-run shot to deep left-centre field for his fourth homer of the year.
Kratz singled for his second hit of the inning before Navarro grounded into an inning-ending double play.
“They flat out beat us in every way,” Lee said. “Shut us out and scored 10 runs. That’s a pretty good beating right there.”