After nine starts over almost two months without a win, the seeds of doubt were beginning to seep into the mind of Mark Buehrle.
At the age of 35 and with a lot of mileage rung up on his sturdy left arm that has been a dependable companion through 15 Major League Baseball seasons, Buehrle admits he was beginning to doubt his abilities when loss after loss kept piling up.
“I guess the older you get you still get a little concerned, I guess, about confidence,” said the Toronto Blue Jays veteran starter. “I didn’t pitch good and I don’t want everybody kind of giving up on me.”
So no one in the Blue Jays clubhouse was more relieved than Buehrle after he finally broke free of the slump, pitching with his usual pinpoint panache to help lead Toronto to a 6-1 cakewalk over the Boston Red Sox here Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
Buehrle, now 11-7 on the year, won for the first time since June 1 and snapped a losing streak of six straight decisions, lasting 6.2-inings, allowing the lone Red Sox run off just six hits.
After streaking out of the starting gate with 10 victories over his first 12 starts, win No 11 was a long time coming.
“He’s pitched some pretty damn good games along the way too and ended up with nothing to show for it,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “He needed that a little bit for his psyche.
“He got off to such a fast start, that 11th win was kind of tough to get, so he needed that. I don’t care how good you’ve been, how long you’ve been in the game. It’s still good to see a W for your starting pitcher up there by your name.”
With their fifth straight win, the Blue Jays swept the slumping Red Sox and improved their record to 59-50, good for second place in the American League East, 2 ½-games behind the Baltimore Orioles.
Boston ace Jon Lester was supposed to make the start against Toronto, but he was a late start amid a crush of media speculation about where he might land with Thursday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline approaching and the last-placed Red Sox in a selling mode.
It had been reported that the Blue Jays were one of the teams interested in obtaining Lester but ESPN.com is now reporting that the Oakland A’s have won the sweepstakes, acquiring Lester from the Red Sox in a deal that will send slugger Yoenis Cespedes to Boston.
As for the Blue Jays, no word yet if general manager Alex Anthopoulos has any plans to make any more moves prior to Thursday’s deadline.
Buehrle said that if Anthopoulos can make any moves that would help Toronto make a charge for their first post-season appearance in 21 years, that would be fine.
But he noted that the Blue Jays are still playing well, even without key personnel like Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion out of the lineup recovering from injury.
Buehrle points to Saturday’s 6-4 win over the New York Yankees, a game where the Blue Jays snapped a 17-game losing streak at Yankee Stadium, as a possible turning point in the Blue Jays season.
The game was a back-and-forth affair in which Toronto finally emerged with the victory.
“There was a different feeling in the clubhouse and in the dugout during that game,” Buehrle said. “So hopefully that’s something that kind of ignited us and kept us going and we’ve played good since then.”
Buehlre laughed when it was mentioned how some of Toronto’s younger pitchers, such as Marcus Stroman, who pitched a gem of a game during Toronto’s 4-2 victory over Boston on Tuesday, have talked how much they are inspired by Buehrle in the clubhouse.
Buehrle said if anything he is the one who is jealous of players like Stroman.
“With the stuff you have, that’s real tough,” Buehrle said he joked to the 22-year-old after that game.
“I haven’t seen a young guy with the confidence that he has,” Buehrle continued. “And I bust his balls a little bit about some of the clothes he wears; a little flashy. But that’s part of who he is and he goes out there and as long as he keeps pitching good that’s part of Marcus Stroman.”