Monday, April 15, 2013
Buehrle puts on 'clinic' vs. former mates
By Mark Polishuk Special to ESPNChicago.com
Mark Buehrle allowed two runs over 6 1/3 innings to beat the Sox for his first victory as a Blue Jay.
TORONTO -- After 12 seasons of seeing Mark Buehrle work his magic in Chicago, it was perhaps fitting that the veteran southpaw delivered what manager Robin Ventura called "a clinic" now that Buehrle was finally an opposing pitcher.
Buehrle led his Toronto Blue Jays to a 4-3 win over the Sox with his signature array of off-speed pitches that left Chicago's lineup feeling like they could've done more.
It was a classic bend-but-don't-break outing from Buehrle, who allowed two runs on nine hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings. The Sox struck quickly in the first, delivering four singles and scoring twice, but couldn't put any more runs on the board despite putting at least one baserunner on in all but one of Buehrle's innings.
"Once he got through that first inning it kind of became a clinic on hitting spots, changing speeds. You've seen this his whole career," Ventura said. "He's a smart pitcher who used our aggressiveness at times, hit spots, added a little, took a little off. ... You can sit there and stay patient all you want, but he's the kind of guy who senses when you're patient and then throws a fastball in there that you think you should hit. That's when it gets frustrating as a hitter. He just frustrated a lot of guys today, teasing them with a little bit of this and a little bit of that."
It seemed as if that frustration extended beyond the playing field. Both Buehrle and Paul Konerko expressed that it was "weird" to face the other, after so many years of Buehrle serving as the fixture of the White Sox rotation.
"I tried not to take a look at too many guys stepping into the batter's box because I knew I would start laughing or something bad would happen," Buehrle said. "I just tried to focus on the glove, which is not me, I'm usually out looking around and having fun.
"It's weird rooting against those guys. I rooted for them for 13 years and wanted them to win every game. This is the first game in I don't know how long that I'm actually rooting against them. That part of it is weird but once we cross the lines, I'm out there trying to win just like they're trying to beat my brains in. Just have to go out there and try to perform."
Konerko agreed that there was a feeling of unease having to face his friend and former teammate.
"I don't think it was fun. It's one of those where ... you've got to a job to do and you go out there and do it," Konerko said. "It felt a little weird, not really something you want to have to deal with. For me anyways, because I played with him for so long I didn't have much fun with it and I don't think he did either."
Of course, it seemed destined that Buehrle and Konerko would clash in a key moment in the game and that moment occurred in the fifth inning. Konerko had already delivered an RBI single in the first inning and now stepped to the plate with two out and runners on the corners. The Sox captain jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the count but then watched two pitches go by for strikes, the second of which was perhaps a generous call from umpire Tony Randazzo. After another ball led to a full count, Buehrle got Konerko to chase a 75 mph breaking ball for the decisive strike.
"I was having the at-bat I wanted to have. I had a 2-1 pitch that was whatever," Konerko said. "Sometimes you've got two choices, you stand up there and you strike out looking or you swing the bat on a pitch you don't want to swing at or you shouldn't have to, that's the moral of the story there."
Buehrle credited Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia with using Konerko's familiarity with the pitcher's arsenal to Toronto's advantage.
"Obviously we know how great of a hitter he is, just try to make some pitches and feel like they kind of had a little advantage knowing me, knowing I throw a lot of change-ups behind in the count," Buehrle said. "J.P. threw down a curveball [at] 3-2, which I don't throw very many of them and I thought it was a great combination the way we went at it. It was a big situation right there.
The White Sox were also victimized by Buehrle's talent for picking off baserunners. Buehrle caught Tyler Greene straying off first base in the second inning and quickly tossed over to get the heads-up out. It was the 90th pick-off of Buehrle's career, ranking him fourth on the all-time major league list.