By JON PALMIERI
(AP) — The Toronto Blue Jays may have cooled off but Mark Buehrle certainly hasn’t.
Buehrle looks to record his major league-leading 11th winThursday night when the Blue Jays open a four-game road series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Perhaps no player has contributed more to the Blue Jays’ surprising position atop the AL East than Buehrle (10-2, 2.04 ERA), who has recorded 11 quality starts in 13 outings. The veteran left-hander has already reached double-digit winsfor the 14th straight season and is just two shy of matching last year’s total.
He failed to win his seventh consecutive decision Saturday against St. Louis despite allowing one run and five hits over seven innings in a 5-0 loss. Buehrle, who matched a season high with five walks, surrendered only his third homer in 88 1-3 innings.
That defeat ended a six-game win streak for Toronto (39-28), which has scored seven runs and batted .205 while losing four of five.
The Blue Jays, who still rank near the top of the AL in most offensive categories, were in danger of being shut out for the fourth time in five games Wednesday before scoring twice in the eighth inning of a 7-2 loss to Minnesota.
“I think we’ve cooled off pretty good, pretty much top to bottom in the lineup … but that’s the way it goes,” manager John Gibbons said. “The key is you can’t prolong the struggles. You’ve got to put an end to them. The bats will heat up again, hopefully sooner than later.”
Gibbons would like to see Edwin Encarnacion’s bat heat back up. The slugger is 2 for 18 with one home run in five games after batting .324 with 17 homers and 33 RBIs over his previous 29 contests.
Toronto may not need much offense in the opener of a 10-game trip Thursday. Buehrle is 5-0 with a 1.47 ERA in six road starts this season, including a seven-inning, one-run outing April 13 in an 11-3 win at Baltimore.
This is a favorable matchup, though, for several Orioles batters. Nick Markakis (.429), Adam Jones (.385), Delmon Young (.378) and Chris Davis (.375) have all handled Buehrle well, combining for eight homers.
Baltimore’s success against division opponents continued Wednesday with a 6-0 victory over Boston, as Davis hit a two-run homer in support of Wei-Yin Chen’s seventh win.
The Orioles (33-31) have won seven of eight against the AL East, a run that started with consecutive victories over Toronto in late April.
They allowed one run in the three-game series against the defending World Series champions.
“I was real pleased and proud of the way our guys pitched the last three days, all of them, the bullpen, too,” manager Buck Showalter said. “They came in and did what they’re supposed to do and we didn’t have to get anybody up behind them.”
Jones had a run-scoring double and is 16 for 40 with four homers and 11 RBIs in nine games this month.
Kevin Gausman (1-1, 4.91) makes his second start for Baltimore in place of the injured Miguel Gonzalez. The right-hander earned his first win as a starter Saturday, allowing one run and four hits with six strikeouts in seven innings of a 6-3 victory over Oakland.
Gausman made his major league debut at Toronto on May 23, 2013, and gave up four runs and seven hits over seven innings in a 12-6 loss.
Related Stories – Baltimore Orioles:
- MLB Bans Smokeless Chewing Tobacco For New Players
- Buck Showalter Talks Pitching, Fields At Camden Yards & More On Hot Stove Show
- Orioles FanFest Tickets Are On Sale Today
- All-Star Game No Longer Determines World Series Start
- Free-Agent Compensation, International Draft Top MLB Issues