* Mark Buehrle is just the third Blue Jay in the 38-year history of the franchise to open the season with four straight wins. Jimmy Key (1991) and Gustavo Chacin (2006) are the others. ....
By Bob Elliott
This is the 38th season for the Toronto Blue Jays franchise.
So using my Kingston math, 190 starting pitchers have had the chance to win their first four games of the season.
Only three have done so.
Jimmy Key in 1991, Gustavo Chacin in 2006, and Mark Buehrle this season.
We knew before sorting through the fast starters that what Buehrle was doing was special. We didn’t know he had bolted from the gate in a more impressive manner than any of the Jays' rich history of former Cy Young award winners: Pat Hentgen, Roger Clemens or Roy Halladay.
While Buehrle does not enjoy discussing his success, others don’t mind.
“Part of what makes him so great is that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff, doesn’t worry about little details,” said closer Sergio Santos. “He might be a finesse lefty, but I’ve learned from him: how he conducts himself pre-start and post-start.
“When he had a bad stretch last year, he came into the clubhouse exactly the same as he is now when he has an ERA of 0.00000064 or whatever.”
Buerhle hasn’t been that good, but almost ...
He has a Commodore 0.64 ERA.
He beat the Tampa Bay Bays (a caught liner by Brett Lawrie away from a complete-game shutout), then worked 5 1/3 innings allowing one run in a win against the Houston Astros, gave up one run in seven innings in Baltimore and in his previous start pitched seven scoreless in Cleveland.
The lefty doesn’t like the limelight, prefers newspaper interviews to the glow of TV -- except when going real good -- and worries about jinxing himself. He has been known to hump it up to 85 MPH wind-aided.
“I’ve seen guys before who try to stay out of the limelight,” said Brandon Morrow. “Sitting watching the game you might wonder how he does it? Then, you watch a video how he moves the ball in and out. The hitter is guessing a first-pitch curve and they get a first-pitch change up. He throws the sinker in, cuts the sinker.”
Despite gaudy numbers, he is self-deprecating. When ex-teammate Mark DeRosa, now of the MLB Network, sent Buehrle a text asking how he’d improved over last April, the lefty knocked his own lack of velocity, age, weight and eyesight.
“I’ve played with some pretty humble guys,” said Josh Thole, the former New York Met. “Johan Santana, Jason Isringhausen and Carlos Beltran. Carlos wanted to help everyone become a better player. Mark is the same way. He has baseball smarts. People don’t realize how difficult it is to throw 200 innings a season.
“You pitch 200 you don’t get your face pushed in too often.”
Buehrle had 10 straight with the Chicago White Sox, one with the Miami Marlins and last year with the Jays ... 13 and counting.
How does he do it when guys with 98 MPH fastballs see liners registering a higher velocity outbound than when they threw it?
“That’s what runners ask me when they get to first: ‘how is he making us look like we don’t know what we’re doing?’” said Edwin Encarnacion with a laugh.
Catcher Dioner Navarro says in each outing the pair have gone in with a game plan and stuck to it on how to approach hitters.
“He believes in what he’s throwing -- that whatever it is, is his best pitch,” said Navarro. “He’s not worried about pitching to contact. He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts. He’ll add and subtract on his velocity.”
Buehrle won’t face the Orioles this three-game series but will start Friday at the Rogers Centre against the Boston Red Sox. Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter saw him in Baltimore in a game Buehrle says he never “remembers pitching seven, allowing one run and having his ERA go up.”
“He pitches on four different planes,” said Showalter. “He works fast and has a great tempo. Professional athletes don’t like to be hurried. He doesn’t walk anyone. He fields as well as anyone and he holds runners.
“He has a lot of good things going on with him -- I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves.”
If Buehrle allows it.
Jays starters to go 4-0 in their first four starts:
Mark Buehrle - 2014
IP H R ER BB SO ERA 28.0 21 2 2 5 19 0.64 (Wins over Tampa Bay, Houston, Baltimore, Cleveland)
Jimmy Key - 1991
IP H R ER BB SO ERA 29.0 18 6 6 8 16 1.86 (Wins over Boston, Milwaukee (2) Detroit)
Gustavo Chacin - 2006
IP H R ER BB SO ERA 24.2 24 14 14 9 12 5.11 (Wins over Minnesota, Boston, Yankees, Baltimore)