Mark Buehrle had just waded into the post-game clubhouse scrum following yet another sleight of hand victory, this one over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night, and being the veteran that he is did not even wait until the first question had been lobbed before speaking.
“I’ve figured it out,” the Toronto Blue Jays starter offered. “You walk enough guys, they’re not all going to score. It seems the last couple starts every time I walked a guy he scored.
“I just walked five of them and I just crossed my fingers and hope all of them don’t score. It didn’t happen tonight. I got it all figured out.”
Buehrle had his tongue firmly planted in cheek when offering up the explanation, knowing full well what was going to be asked: how is a 35-year-old Major League Baseball pitcher with more mileage on his arm than the Space Shuttle, who throws with the velocity of a little leaguer, keep piling up the victories?
“I don’t know,” Buehrle said. “Don’t ask questions just keep rolling.”
Call him crafty, carefree on just plain confounding. The one thing Buehrle has certainly been this year for the Blue Jays is consistent.
And it is scary to even think what depths the American League team would be wallowing in right now in the A.L. East standing without his steadying influence out on the mound every five days.
Buehrle became the fist seven-game winner in the Majors this season by flummoxing the Angels at Rogers Centre despite walking a season-high five batters during a 7-3 triumph, his ERA now a sparkling 2.04.
The victory salvaged the fourth and final game of the series against the Angels, who were threatening to become the first team to sweep a four-game set against the Blue Jays at home since 2001.
The victory boosted Buehrle’s record to 7-1 in eight starts on the season and improved Toronto’s mark to 19-20, keeping the Blue Jays very much in the hunt in the wishy-washy A.L. East.
“As usual, it all starts on the mound,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “ Buehrle’s on some kind of roll. He was the perfect guy tonight.
“We’ve been struggling, they haven’t been able to bury us yet. We haven’t put it all together but they haven’t been able to bury us. We still keep hanging around. Tonight gives me optimism when it all starts clicking.”
Buehrle, who entered the game with an unsavory 2-8 career mark against the Angels in 22 games, benefitted from an early power play courtesy of Jose Bautista, who belted his team-leading 10th home run of the season off lefty C.J. Wilson in the first inning.
The blast provided Toronto with a quick 3-0 lead and provided a good measure of confidence to a team whose offence had been MIA in the three previous encounters against L.A.
And although Buehrle walked a season-high five batters, he was able to keep the Angles off-balance by mixing up his speed and offering up his usual repertoire of well-placed pitches as dictated by catcher Dionar Navarro.
“He’s old reliable,” Gibbons said of Buehrle. “He goes out there you know what you’re going to get. He gets hit around every now and then, but he’s used to winning. He’s had a great career and he’s one of those guys, he knows how to survive.
“A lot of your big winners in this game are not necessarily your hardest throwers. They’re guys that pitch and you have to beat him because he fields his position, he holds runners. He does everything you want a pitcher to do during a game.”
Buehrle pitched into the seventh inning, scattering six L.A. hits for two runs before turning the ball over to Steve Delabar with a 5-2 Toronto lead with runners at first and second and none out.
And the first two batters that Delabar had to face were Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, who between them came into the game with 17 home runs and 46 RBI.
Delabar proceeded to strike out Trout and then get Pujols to hit into an inning-ending double play to shut down any L.A. uprising.
The one area Buehrle has cleaned up this year is his home runs allowed. He has given up just one home run in his starts this season compared to 11 over his first eight games in 2013 when his record was 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA.
“Why you have to bring it up?” Buehrle responded when asked about the diminishing opposing home run totals. “That’s what I said, you don’t ask too many questions, you just kind of go with it. I don’t know.”
It’s not that the Blue Jays are looking for any answers behind it all, just continued wins.