By Andrew Hendriks.
Canadian Baseball Network
When Mark Buehrle induced a deep fly-out off the bat of Chuck Knoblauch on Sept. 18, 2001, the then 22 year-old Missouri born southpaw formally kicked off one of baseball’s most impressive streaks of the modern era.
Appearing in only his second MLB campaign and first of full-season action, Buehrle reached the 200-inning plateau for the first time with that fly ball, a high water mark in which he’s reached in every season since.
To put things into perspective, those 200 inning campaigns easily produced a run of 30 or more starts per season that stretches a span of 14 consecutive years in total.
Including Buehrle, only five major league hurlers have reached that mark and among those five, standouts like Christy Mathewson, Warren Sphan and Cy Young, the man, not the award, reign supreme.
Furthermore, in 2014, Buehrle became the first pitcher in ML history to throw 14 straight seasons of at least 200 innings without walking more than 61 batters per year. Entering that ill-fated Blue Jays campaign, only Young himself had produced numbers that rivaled Buehrle’s control over that span. Young had 13.
Death, taxes and 200-inning performances from Mark Buehrle.
But with less than four weeks remaining in the regular season, and only 174 and a third innings under his belt in 2015, that streak could be in jeopardy of coming to an end.
In short, Buehrle would have to average at least six innings in each of his final four starts of the regular season to get within striking distance of a 15th consecutive 200 IP campaign.
That said, the operative word is regular.
With the Toronto in the midst of its first true pennant race in over 21 years, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons can ill afford to take chances with any of his starters from here on out.
Between now and the season’s conclusion on Oct. 4, Toronto benefit from two off days in which they can use to either skip a scuffling starter, realign its rotation for more daunting games down the stretch or give their starters an added days rest between appearances.
Considering the fact that both Marco Estrada and Drew Hutchison are quickly approaching their career highs in innings pitched, one would think that an extra day off would pay dividends for the pair down the stretch and for Buehrle, this adds a degree of security to his starts for the remainder of the season.
HOW QUICKLY THEY FORGET
From June 3rd to Aug. 13th, not only was Buehrle one of the Blue Jays most consistent starters, but he was also one of the American League’s best over that stretch, going 7-1 with a sparkling earned run average of 2.16.
During his run of unparalleled dominance, the five time All-Star was able to shutdown not only the streaking Minnesota Twins, but also a dominant New York Mets squad in addition to twice holding the AL best Kansas City Royals at bay while the Jays bats went to work in support of their veteran lefty.
A NEEDED SHOT IN THE... SHOULDER?
On Tuesday, Buehrle returned home to Toronto in order to receive a cortisone shot aimed at addressing an inflamed shoulder.
“He’s a little banged up,” Gibbons told reporters in advance of Monday’s loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park, perhaps hinting at the fact that his southpaw has been going at less than 100% since mid August.
As it stands, Marcus Stroman will make his return to the Jays rotation this Saturday, taking Buehrle’s spot as Toronto rolls into Yankee Stadium for what promises to be a dramatic four-game set in the Bronx.
For the second consecutive start, Buehrle will go on extended rest as he’s slated to go on Tuesday vs. the Braves. Historically speaking, the Jays ailing lefty has struggled inside the Atlanta Atlanta Chop House but with that said, these are not your older brother’s Braves.
Since breaking into the majors 15 years ago, Buehrle, a less-than max effort control artist, has never experienced a stint on the disabled list.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a stretch of 513 appearances, 488 starts and 3442 innings of work on the mound.
Not bad for a guy who, as a freshman, was cut from his high school’s baseball squad.
- Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)