Mark Buehrle pitched in the 476th game of his major-league career here Wednesday night against the Boston Red Sox.
The five-time all-star has hurled more than 3,000 innings and is closing in on 200 career wins, with a perfect game and a no-hitter to his credit over 15 big-league seasons.
The man knows no fear.
Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez, Buehrle’s still wet-behind-the-ear comrades on the Toronto Blue Jays, have not even combined to throw for 260 big-league innings.
In his prime, Buehrle used to polish off close to that in a single season.
The Stroman-Hutchison-Sanchez triumvirate also knows no fear, only their bravado is based more on what they have not experienced more than anything else.
In Toronto’s final game before Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, Buehrle looked more like the first-half Buehrle as the Blue Jays (59-50) polished off the lifeless Red Sox (48-60) 6-1 at Fenway Park.
For Buehrle, who was 10-6 by the all-star break, it was his first victory in almost two months as the streaking Blue Jays completed the three-game sweep over their reeling American League East rivals.
The Blue Jays will now conclude their 10-game road trip in Houston beginning Thursday night in the first of a four-game set against the Astros.
The Blue Jays have now won five straight and 10 of their past 12 and continue to hold down second place as they try to haul in the Baltimore Orioles, who are stationed in first.
Should the Blue Jays stand pat by the time Thursday’s 4 p.m. (ET) trade deadline rolls around, it will signal that general manager Alex Anthopoulos is confident that the makeup of his pitching staff can withstand the pressures of a second-half pennant race.
That makeup includes the two greybeards in Buehrle, 35, and R.A. Dickey, 39, along with J.A. Happ, who is 31.
Stroman and Hutchison occupy the other two spots in the rotation.
Stroman, the confident rookie, is only 23 but performing like he is the ace of the staff.
Hutchison, while not technically a rookie, is also 23.
Hutchison, as his 7-9 record would indicate, has pitched inconsistently. But he is still working on completing his first full season in the majors after Tommy John surgery curtailed his rookie year in 2012.
Sanchez, the starter-in-waiting, is 22 and only a week or so into the start of his big-league career.
The Blue Jays are breaking Sanchez in out of the bullpen and he, too, has looked solid in a relief role in a very small sample size.
As the season wears on and the games become more meaningful for the Blue Jays should they remain in the playoff hunt, pitching coach Pete Walker said the inexperience of the trio could actually be a blessing.
“Ignorance can be bliss,” Walker said before Wednesday’s game. “They don’t know what’s out there really yet. They’re just taking it game to game and the experiences are all new and fresh to them and they’re enjoying the moment.”
Right now, Walker said, their youth is not an issue.
“I think the experience they’re getting now is invaluable,” he said. “Being able to pitch in Boston, New York – on the road in tight situations – gives them a lot of confidence. They haven’t been awed at all by the situation.
“The guys are very confident in their ability and I think they tend to shine when the times get tough and the expectations are even higher.”
It was a surreal atmosphere that permeated throughout creaky Fenway on Wednesday as the Red Sox sent Triple-A call-up Brandon Workman to the mound to start in place of Jon Lester.
Lester, the Boston fan favourite, was scratched Tuesday night from the start amid countless trade rumours involving the Boston ace, including reported strong interest by the Blue Jays.
It was a difficult situation for Workman to have to negotiate and, predictably, he struggled.
Workman walked the first two Toronto batters of the first inning and they both came in to score to provide the Blue Jays with a quick 2-0 lead.
Workman was the author of his own misfortune in the Toronto fifth inning, where his throw to first base after fielding a sacrifice bunt by Jose Reyes was way off line and drifted into right field for an error.
That allowed Anthony Gose to come all the way around from second base to score the first of three Toronto runs in the frame, all unearned, that put the Blue Jays comfortably ahead 5-0.
That was more than enough support for Buehrle as he would cruise through 62/3 innings, allowing the lone Boston run off six hits to improve his record to 10-7.
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