It was the game’s delicious moment, a juicy tidbit served up by a pitcher whose 14-year Major League Baseball career has been earmarked by being able to make the right pitch at the right time.
For Mark Buehrle, 12 of those years were spent in the uniform of the Chicago White Sox, the team in which he recorded a perfect game, a no-hitter, and led to a World Series title in 2005.
But the 34-year-old lefthander is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays now, and he admitted to feeling just a bit odd facing his former mates for the first time at Rogers Centre on Monday night.
Buehrle came out on top, earning a 4-3 verdict for his first win in three outings this season.
“It’s weird rooting against those guys,” said Buehrle, who pitched last season in the National League for the Miami Marlins, where he had signed as a free agent after so long in Chicago.
He was traded to Toronto this past off-season, part of the massive 12-player swap that also landed the Blue Jays pitcher Josh Johnson and shortstop Jose Reyes.
“I’ve rooted for them (the White Sox) for 13 years and wanted them to win every game and this is the first game in I don’t know how long that I’m actually rooting against them,” Buehrle continued. “But once we crossed the lines I’m out there trying to win just like they’re trying to beat our brains in. So just got to go out there and try to perform.”
Buehrle’s apprehension showed in the first inning, where the normally precise pitcher served up three consecutive one-out singles that eventually helped lift Chicago into a quick 2-0 lead.
One of those hits came of the bat of Paul Konerko, who was a teammate of Buehrle’s for all of his dozen seasons in Chicago, and it led to the White Sox first run.
And it was Konerko who was at the plate once again in the pivotal fifth, lefty against lefty, with two out and runners on the corners and Toronto holding a 4-2 lead.
After falling behind 2-0, Buehrle battled back and brought the count to full when Toronto catcher J. P. Arencibia signaled for an off-speed pitch.
The pitcher complied, snapping off a nasty 74-mile-an-hour curveball that the Chicago captain could only flail at for strike three that ended the threat.
Buehrle, who would pitch into the seventh inning before departing with a 4-2 lead, was asked who had the edge in the game, he or Konerko, who managed to deliver back in the first inning.
“I’ll take it the way it happened,” Buehrle said. “In a big situation right there I was just trying to make a pitch. Obviously I know how great of a hitter he is so I just had to try to make some pitches.
“I feel like they kind of had a little advantage knowing me, knowing I throw a lot of changeups behind the count. J.P. threw down a curveball 3-2 which I don’t throw very many of them. And I felt it was a great combination the way we went at it. It was a big situation right there.”
The victory provided Toronto with the opening win of a four-game set against the White Sox, played out before 15,755 fans.
After the game, the Blue Jays announced that reliever Sergio Santos, who missed almost all of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, was going back on the disabled list.
This time it is a nagging triceps strain that is bothering Santos, an injury the righthander says he does not believe is that serious.
“It just kind of hit a point where I felt like I wouldn’t be doing the team any service, or helping them out, if I wouldn’t come in a pitch effectively,” Santos said. “So I’d rather nip it in the bud now.
“And hopefully it’s only two or three weeks and then I can be back.”
With Santos going on the DL the Blue Jays announced that third baseman Brett Lawrie was coming off the injured list after recovering from a strained oblique muscle that has kept him out of the lineup all season.