TORONTO — Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle has no explanation for the best start of his 15-year career, which sees him with a Major League-leading seven wins in the season’s first eight starts.
“You don’t ask too many questions,” Buehrle said Monday after gutting it out through six-plus innings as the Blue Jays defeated the Los Angeles Angels 7-3 at the Rogers Centre. “You just go with it.
“I don’t feel like I’m pitching different. I haven’t changed anything. (I have) no answer for it.”
The 35-year-old Buehrle said he struggled “big time” Monday, surrendering six hits and walking five. But he limited the Angels to a pair of runs even though he had base runners in each of his final five innings.
“I figured it out. Walk enough guys, they’re not all going to score,” quipped Buehrle, who ran his record to 7-1 before 13,603 at Rogers Centre. It’s the first time he’s won seven of the first eight starts in a season.
“I just felt like I was not getting ahead in the count. Guys were making plays behind me,” he said. “It didn’t feel like it was an easy game. Obviously, the five walks shows that.”
Jose Bautista with a three-run home run in the first and Brett Lawrie with a two-run shot in the sixth gave Buehrle all the offence he needed. Each of the round-trippers found the second deck as the Blue Jays (19-20) ended a three-game losing streak and salvaged the finale of the four-game series against L.A.
Bautista’s blast, his 178th as a Blue Jay, moved him to within one of Jesse Barfield for fifth all-time on the club’s home run list.
Lawrie, returning to the line-up after missing six games with a sore right hamstring, pounded the first pitch he saw from Angels (19-18) starter C.J. Wilson (4-3) in the sixth inning for his seventh home run of the season.
The blast widened the Blue Jays lead to 5-2 after L.A.’s Mike Trout with a two-run, two-out double in the third to get the visitors to within a run.
“A lot of good things happened tonight,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, pointing to the Buehrle start, key home runs, solid performance by reliever Steve Delabar to quell an Angels rally in the seventh.
He also welcomed back Casey Janssen, making his first appearance of the season after returning from a stint on the disabled list with a back injury. The right-hander worked a hitless ninth, yielding a walk.
Gibbons said one of the keys for Buehrle this season is that he’s surrendered just one home run, compared to 11 at this point a season ago. He’s also come out of spring training feeling better.
It was Buehrle’s 437th consecutive start without a stint on the disabled list, the longest active streak in the Majors.
“He’s old reliable,” Gibbons said.
“He goes out there and you know what you’re going to get.
“He’s going to get hit around every now and then like they all do but he’s used to winning. He’s had a great career and he’s one of those guys who knows how to survive.”
Lawrie said of his home run that he “was just trying to extend the inning and stepped into one.”
Centrefielder Colby Rasmus came out of the game after the sixth inning with tightness in his right hamstring.
While Gibbons said he might need to look at putting him on the disabled list as it’s the second time its flared up in a week, Rasmus insisted after the game he was day-to-day.