Royals stymied by nemesis Buehrle in finale
Guthrie fires seven strong innings in loss as KC splits four-game set
TORONTO -- Cool, quick and clever, Mark Buehrle is approaching the 200-victory mark with a lot of help from Kansas City.
Buehrle notched his 196th victory -- 25 of them over the Royals -- as he pitched the Toronto Blue Jays to a 4-0 win on Sunday at Rogers Centre. That gave the left-hander a 10-1 record this season and lowered his ERA to 2.10.
If Buehrle ever needs an endorsement, say next fall when the American League Cy Young Award voters are cogitating, he might call on Royals manager Ned Yost.
"He was dynamite. He's traditionally tough on us, but he's 10-1 now. He's tough on everybody. He's a master at what he does," Yost said, warming to his subject.
"He commands the baseball so well, changes speeds off everything that he has. He has the ability to read the hitter's reaction to the pitch before to know what he's going to throw next. If the hitter's gearing up, he backs off. If the hitter's backing off, he gears up. He just pitched a phenomenal game."
Given that recitation, it's hard to believe that Buehrle has lost 12 times to the Royals over the years.
Buehrle went eight innings -- another lefty, Aaron Loup, finished up -- and parceled out six hits and one walk. He had three strikeouts -- maybe by accident because he normally relies on his fielders to do all the work for him.
"I just like to get the ball and throw it and I know guys like to play behind you whenever there is a quick game," Buehrle said. "I need those guys all over the place out there when I'm pitching."
Quick, you bet. It took just 2 hours, 14 minutes for the Blue Jays to manage a split in the four-game series. Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie did his best with seven strong innings, giving up just two runs.
"You try to give up zero runs," Guthrie said. "[Buehrle] is obviously having a great season and his momentum is pretty good. We're not the only team that's been shut down by Mark this year."
Guthrie escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning -- he walked two around Adam Lind's single -- but there was no escaping Dioner Navarro's big swing in the second. Navarro sent a curveball soaring over the right-field wall for the Blue Jays' first run.
"I thought Guthrie pitched equally as well," Yost said. "He made the one mistake to Navarro, he got the curveball up, but that is a very, very dangerous lineup over there, and he did a great job of maneuvering through it and keeping us right in the game. Nori [Aoki] misplayed a fly ball that ended up costing him another run, but I just thought he threw the ball extremely well."
Aoki missed Juan Francisco's line drive that opened the Blue Jays' fourth inning. Misreading the ball, he came in two or three steps and retreated too late, the ball glancing off his glove for a double.
"I thought it was going to drop in front of me, but it ended up carrying a little more than I expected," Aoki said.
Francisco advanced on Brett Lawrie's single and scored when the Royals couldn't pull off a double play on Anthony Gose's grounder.
After Guthrie finished his 104-pitch outing, reliever Aaron Crow worked the eighth inning and gave up a single to Lind and a two-run homer to Edwin Encarnacion -- his 19th blast this season.
Twice the Royals led off innings with doubles but could not capitalize. Alcides Escobar did it in the third inning and got tagged in a rundown after Aoki's bouncer.
Eric Hosmer gave the Royals another shot at Buehrle in the sixth when his floater into center dropped safely and he daringly took second base.
"I made a good turn, noticed the shortstop and second baseman were out there, looked at the bag and no one was really there, so I just took off. Just trying to get something going," Hosmer said. "Then made a stupid baserunning mistake on the next play, trying to make something happen."
Hosmer felt that Billy Butler's sharp grounder would get though for a single, but shortstop Jose Reyes glided over to make the stop and threw out Hosmer at third base.
"I thought the ball was going to get through, too," Yost said, "and he had a tougher angle than I did, but Reyes did a great job of ranging over and the only play he had was at third."
The Royals just couldn't figure a way to score against Buehrle.
"You can't lament Buehrle being Buehrle today," Yost said. "I thought we had some really good at-bats, I didn't feel at any time we were giving away at-bats. I felt like we had a good plan against him. He's just really good at keeping you off-balance."
Hosmer was asked if Buehrle's fast pace discombobulated batters.
"I wouldn't say it works against us because we control the time and the pace of the game," Hosmer said. "But it definitely helps out a defense a lot. He's a guy that's not trying to strike people out. He's letting his defense work. When he's working at a fast pace like that, it's real fun to play defense behind him."
Of course, Hosmer was on the other side trying to hit him. And, after having a total of 32 hits in the first three games of the series, the Royals managed just six hits in the finale.
"We're swinging the bats better," Yost said. "I just wish anybody was pitching but Buehrle today."