November 27, 2014

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Struggling offense no match for veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle as Blue Jays blank Indians

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle delivers in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday. Buehrle pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up four hits. The Blue Jays defeated the Indians 5-0. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle delivers in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday. Buehrle pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up four hits. The Blue Jays defeated the Indians 5-0. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle is drinking from the Fountain of Youth at age 35.

The Indians, meanwhile, are struggling to tread water.

The veteran left-hander scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings Saturday afternoon, allowing Toronto to coast to a 5-0 win at Progressive Field.

Cleveland failed to get a runner past second base against Buehrle or reliever Esmil Rogers — stranding seven — in losing its third game in a row and falling to 7-10.

“It’s not time to jump off the bridge just yet,” Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. “We still feel good, but we’ve got to go out there and do a better job. We know that, we’re a no-excuse type of squad.

“Sometimes you have tough starts to the year, but this team grinds and we fight. Buehrle just had it going, hitting spots like he always does.”

Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, catcher Yan Gomes, right fielder David Murphy and third baseman Mike Aviles had one hit apiece for the Tribe, which went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position one night after leaving 12 on base in a 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

Buehrle (4-0, 0.64 ERA) kept Cleveland’s hitters guessing throughout his seven-plus innings, walking three and striking out three, despite only throwing 58 strikes in 107 pitches.

The former White Sox ace earned his ninth career win at the ballpark, tying Justin Verlander and David Wells for the most by an opposing pitcher.

“Buehrle has been great in his first four starts and is obviously feeling really good about himself right now,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “When he gets a lead, he kind of puts you in a rocking chair, and when you get a runner on base, he’ll get you to roll over.”

Tribe pitcher Corey Kluber agreed, saying, “You’ve just got to tip your hat to Buehrle. He’s gotten it done for a long time.”

Toronto tagged Kluber (1-2, 5.40 ERA) for three runs over the first two innings, then tacked on two more in chasing him in the seventh. The right-hander went 6⅔ innings, allowing nine hits and four earned runs while striking out three.

Swisher played a major role in the Blue Jays’ two first-inning runs, mishandling a Jose Bautista popup to score Melky Cabrera, and allowing Dioner Navarro’s smash to bounce off his glove and bring in Bautista.

Neither was scored an error because of their high level of difficulty, but did cause the crowd of 15,188 to boo the Ohio State product for the remainder of the chilly day.

“It certainly would have helped us win, but they were very tough plays,” Francona said. “We had a shift on, so Swish was the only guy anywhere near the popup and he was running full speed backward. The next ball almost tore his head off, and you can’t fault him for that one, either.”

Kluber surrendered a leadoff walk in the third to Brett Lawrie, who scored on a smash up the middle by Jose Reyes. Navarro completed his three-RBI game with a single in the seventh, bringing around Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Mark Rzepczynski followed Kluber with 1⅓ innings for Cleveland, while Blake Wood tossed a perfect ninth. Indians relievers lead the American League by stranding 88.5 percent of their inherited runners.

Tribe center fielder Michael Brantley went 0-for-3, snapping his 10-game hitting streak against Toronto. Swisher and Santana each failed to get a hit in four at-bats, dropping their averages to .174 and .153, respectively.

Cleveland, which was shut out for the first time this season, fell to 0-2 on its seven-game homestand.

“We really believe in this group a lot and I know they’ll fight through it,” Francona said. “It’s a long season and it’s not always fun, but we believe they’ll figure it out.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

TODAY
WHO: Cleveland vs. Toronto
TIME: 1:05
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Carrasco (0-2, 7.84 ERA) vs. Morrow (1-1, 5.52)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM

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