It’s always nice to come home.
Mark Buehrle made his first start in Chicago since leaving the White Sox. He played twelve seasons for them, before moving on to Miami and then to the Toronto Blue Jays. The crowd, just over 29, 000 people, cheered for their former star, as the Blue Jays let Buehrle take the mound alone and take in the moment.
Buehrle carried that moment into his night. The grizzle-faced, lefty pitcher from Missouri made easy work of his former team for five straight innings. He threw 67% of his 72 pitches for strikes, getting 6 groundouts, 3 strikeouts, and 2 flyouts without allowing a walk. Buehrle’s most effective pitch was his cutting fastball, which seemed to sneak up on hitters in disbelief.
Mark Buehrle (56) acknowledges the cheers from fans during the sixth inning. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Blue Jays were able to give their starter a chance for the win with their bats. In the top of the second inning, Dioner Navarro hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Edwin Encarnacion. Nolan Reimold, who had been struggling at the plate, singled to left field and scored Danny Valencia. In the top of the fifth inning, Jose Reyes spanked a ground ball into center field, scoring Colby Rasmus, who had a solid at-bat. Rasmus fended off eight fastballs in a row from White Sox starter, John Danks, to put the ball in play, determined to be patient and get on base.
Five Blue Jays had multiple hits in the game, helping to rack up 13 hits as a team. The list included Reyes, Valencia, Reimold, Melky Cabrera, and Munenori Kawasaki. Melky showed why he was hitting .313 coming into the ballgame. Valencia and Reimold needed a night like tonight to break through for the Blue Jays. Even Kawasaki was surprising since he only came on as a pinch hitter for Steve Tollison in the seventh inning. That kind of production helps breed runs.
Unfortunately, run support doesn’t always mean wins for starting pitching. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Avisail Garcia singled sharply for the White Sox to right field to Reimold, who had to play it off of the fence. The play scored Gordon Beckham. After inheriting two baserunners from Buehrle, Dustin McGowan took over the mound duties by uncorking a wild pitch that moved the runners into scoring position. Dayan Viciedo then scored a tagging Jose Abreu from third base with a sacrifice fly to center. By the time Buehrle’s old teammate and good friend, Paul Konerko, singled to left field and scored Garcia, the game was tied. Buehrle was charged with all three runs, meaning that he would not get the decision in his homecoming game.
His counterpart, Danks, threw 103 pitches in six full innings, allowing the same 7 hits and 3 earned runs. Neither starter would get the decision on this night.
In the top of the seventh inning, Matt Lindstrom replaced Danks and proceeded to take the loss for him. Cabrera doubled on a screaming drive to center field, scoring Kawasaki and Reyes. Danks’ brother, Jordan, who plays center field for the Sox, did not help matters with a throwing error, which helped Melky move to third base. Jose Bautista cashed him in with a single to center.
Brett Cecil replaced McGowan, played only 0.2 of an inning, striking out two White Sox bombers, and yet picked up his first win of the season. It was the 64th win for the Blue Jays this season, as well. Aaron Sanchez came on for 1.2 innings, only allowing one hit, and Casey Janssen pitched the ninth inning for his 19th save in 22 opportunities.
Overall, it was a good night for the Blue Jays. Edwin Encarnacion got his first hit since coming off of the disabled list. Valencia and Reimold got into the grove a bit. Melky was Melky. The team got hits but also cashed them in, which has been a problem lately. And the bullpen was able to hold down the opposition.
But even without the win, it was Buehrle’s night. He got to show why Chicago loved him for so many seasons. He kept his team in the game until the bats got going. In a workman-like manner, Mark Buehrle competed and the fans, both White Sox and Blue Jays supporters, tipped their caps and their hearts to him for it.