You’ve heard the story of the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays by now: they went all-in this year, only to end up with a group that found new, frustratingly creative ways to lose for much of the first two months, while injuries and ineffectiveness to stars like Jose Reyes only gave Miami Marlins owner Jeffery Loria even more ammunition for his particular style of franchise operation.
Well, don’t look now, but these last-place Blue Jays can do no wrong these days.
Just ask Mark Buehrle, the steady veteran who had been anything but for most of the season, but who put on yet another solid performance on Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies en route to helping the Blue Jays to a 5-2 victory — their eighth in a row.
No, it wasn’t quite a quality start, but the southpaw held the Rockies to a pair of runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out four, just effective enough to hold the early lead that the Blue Jays gave him and pass it on to a dominant bullpen, who combined for four innings of one-hit ball. That helped Buehrle finally return to the .500 mark with his fourth win of the season, and his second in a row.
The way he’s been pitching, though, it’s almost weird that his streak hasn’t gone on for longer.
Now, while the 34-year-old has been far from unhittable (.263 BAA in June), you can’t say he hasn’t been effective. Aside from posting an excellent 2.16/1.24 ERA/WHIP though 25 innings in June, Wednesday was also the first time in six turns that the lefty hasn’t thrown a quality start, and he’s allowed three runs just once (in his uneven three-homer outing against the San Diego Padres to start June) dating back to May 22.
His numbers in that span? 2.13/1.16 ERA, 6.63 K/9, 2.13 BB/9 — not to shabby, yes?
The run of success has brought Buehrle’s numbers back to a more … Buehrle-like 4.60/1.35 ERA/WHIP, and by the looks of it, that earned run average should only continue to trend downward yet.
It looks to be happening just in time too, as the Blue Jays will embark on what may be the most crucial stretch of games of their season in the next week-plus, with 10 games against three different AL East opponents on tap, including three against the Tampa Bay Rays, who are just 1.5 games ahead of Toronto going into Thursday.
Sure, it’d be almost silly to make any bold proclamations about the Blue Jays’ redemption at this point of the season, but they’re 4.5 games out of the wild card now, and in prime position to move closer to it by the beginning of July, when it seemed like all but an impossibility a month ago.
That’s why they play the games, I suppose.