Mark Buehrle did his thing on Saturday, allowing only one run in seven innings as he tried for a major-league leading 11th win.
Unfortunately for Buehrle, Shelby Miller did even better.
The Cardinals starter pitched his first shutout of the season, and the second of his career, as St. Louis snapped the Toronto Blue Jays six-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory.
“He was tremendous,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Miller. “But they’ve got a good pitching staff over there, as good as anybody’s in baseball, top to bottom. He was on his game. We hit a couple of balls we thought had a chance but they flagged them down.”
Buehrle (10-2) wasn’t at his best Saturday, but the left-hander pitched around five hits and five walks with his usual understated velocity that would not endanger fine china on impact.
The only run he allowed in the game was Randal Grichuk’s first major-league homer on a first-pitch change-up in the fifth inning. It was enough to snap Buehrle’s streak of six consecutive winning decisions and give him his first loss since April 25 against the Boston Red Sox.
“Buehrle was great,” Gibbons said. “His command was off a little bit but he gutted it out for seven innings. He did what he does, he keeps you off the scoreboard but the story of the game was Miller. He’s got that sneaky fastball. He threw a lot of fastballs located it up, threw it in and out. He carved us up pretty good.”
Miller (7-5) held the Blue Jays to three hits and one walk while striking out five to snap a string of three losses in a row.
“The biggest thing was getting ahead in the counts and mixing it up,” Miller said. “Warming up in the bullpen I didn’t feel good at all. It’s crazy how the game works. I’m a little speechless still. It was a lot of fun doing that.”
The Cardinals, who had lost their two previous games, scored four runs against Toronto relievers Aaron Loup and Steve Delabar in the eighth as they evened the three-game series against the Blue Jays with the rubber match on Sunday.
Grichuk picked up his second RBI of the game when Delabar walked him with the bases loaded.
While Miller was retiring his first 13 batters, the Cardinals (32-31) were threatening Buehrle. They loaded the bases with two out in the fourth on a one-out double by Jhonny Peralta, a walk to Oscar Taveras and a two-out infield that bounced off Buehrle. But Buehrle worked out of the jam when Tony Cruz’s bouncer to third resulted in a force play at second.
The Cardinals did score with one out in the fifth when Grichuk took homered to centre field.
“It was changeup away, it was on the outside of plate, it may have been up a tad,” Buehrle said. “I knew he hit it pretty good but I thought when he hit it that it was more of a pop fly so it kind of surprised me. It seems like we hit a few balls today that I thought were going to go out of there and they caught them at the warning track. He obviously hit it a little bit better than I thought he did at first.”
“He hammered that ball,” Matheny said. “That’s the kind of power that excites you about him. Not many guys have that kind of juice to the centre of the field. The ball just absolutely jumps off his bat no matter what he does.”
The Blue Jays (38-25) did not have a runner on base until Adam Lind walked with one out in the fifth. Lind took second on a high chop by Brett Lawrie that first baseman Allen Craig snared adeptly before throwing to Miller covering first for the first out on a close play. Juan Francisco made the final out with a towering fly out to the wall in centre field.
“The way we have been swinging the bats, for him to go out there and shut us out like that, it’s one of those things, tip your hat to that guy,” said Buehrle, who threw a season-high 118 pitches. “He had it going today and kept us off the board.”
Jose Reyes lined a single to right with two out in the sixth for the Blue Jays first hit of the game and their second base runner. Melky Cabrera followed with a double that deflected off Craig’s glove to put runners at second and third. But Jose Bautista struck out on a 97-mile-an hour fastball. Bautista, who hit a fly out to the centre-field warning track in the first, was 0-for-4 to snap a 12-game hitting streak.
“He turned it up, no question,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Miller’s sixth-inning strikeout of Bautista. “That’s a huge part of the game right there, obviously, with one of the best hitters you’re going to see.”
Left-hander Loup replaced Buehrle in the eighth and he was charged with four runs to snap his string of 15 1/3 scoreless innings. He walked Mark Ellis with the bases loaded to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead and allowed a two-run single by Cruz for a 4-0 lead before right-hander Delabar took over and walked his first two batters to force in another run.
The rally started with Craig’s one-out double to right that was followed by an intentional walk to Peralta and a single by Taveras that filled the bases.
NOTES: Attendance was announced as 42,981. ...The Blue Jays have been alone in first in the AL East for 16 consecutive days, the longest since 1993 when they were first from June 24 until the end of the season. They won the World Series that year. a The interleague series ends Sunday with the Cardinals starting left-hander Jaime Garcia (1-0, 5.47 earned-run average) facing Blue Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison (4-3, 3.50 ERA).