Excellent production at the plate has the Houston Astros in position to sweep a series at home for the first time in 15 months.
The Toronto Blue Jays are hoping Mark Buehrle can prevent that from happening.
The Astros will attempt to solve Buehrle for the first time and sweep this three-game set from the struggling Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
Houston (43-85), owner of the worst record in baseball, have totaled 20 runs in winning the first two games after Saturday's 8-5 victory.
The Astros had dropped 17 of their previous 20 at Minute Maid Park, batting .213 while averaging 3.4 runs.
Houston has a .329 average over the last two games, with four home runs among its 14 extra-base hits and 23 overall. Now, the Astros are trying to sweep a series at home for the first time taking three games from the Chicago Cubs from May 21-23, 2012.
Sweeping the Blue Jays (57-73), however, may be a tall task since they're giving the ball to Buehrle (9-7, 4.23 ERA).
The veteran left-hander started the season 1-3 with a 6.33 ERA through his first nine starts, but he's 8-4 with a 3.19 ERA in 17 games since. He's won his last four decisions behind a 2.41 ERA in six outings.
Buehrle seemed to be headed for another win Tuesday, but gave up a game-tying homer before exiting with two outs in the seventh of a 3-2 loss at the New York Yankees .
"One too many bad pitches, I guess," Buehrle told the team's official website.
Buehrle has won both of his starts against the Astros, yielding one run in 17 innings. He was masterful while tossing a two-hitter with nine strikeouts in a 4-0 home win July 25.
This will be his first appearance at Minute Maid Park since getting a save with the Chicago White Sox in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series.
Buehrle held Jason Castro hitless in four at-bats - fanning him twice - last month. However, the catcher enters this matchup hitting .371 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 19 games.
Castro has four hits in this series after going 3 for 3 with two homers and three RBIs Saturday. His 17 homers have matched the team's single-season record for a catcher, set by John Bateman in 1966.
"The biggest thing that I've really been trying to do this year is stay as consistent as possible and really not deviate from my approach," Castro said. "I've tried to be as simple as possible and it's worked out so far."
The Astros will send Dallas Keuchel (5-7, 5.11) to the mound, and the left-hander is 0-1 over his last two outings, allowing 10 runs in 12 2-3 innings.
He was pulled after four-plus frames Aug. 17, allowing four runs with three walks while not getting a decision in a 6-5 road defeat to the Los Angeles Angels .
Keuchel surrendered six runs and three homers in 7 1-3 innings in an 8-6 victory in his only career start versus Toronto on July 27.
The Jays have dropped seven in a row, matching their season worst from July 14-24, and are on the cusp of their longest slide since a nine-game stretch from May 19-27, 2009.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|August 21, 2013||Jose Bautista||15-Day DL||Left hip bone bruise|
|August 21, 2013||Maicer Izturis||60-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Maicer Izturis||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|August 17, 2013||Jose Reyes||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 12, 2013||Colby Rasmus||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|August 10, 2013||Juan Perez||60-Day DL||Torn UCL ligament, left elbow|
|August 23, 2013||Max Stassi||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 21, 2013||Max Stassi||Day-to-Day||Left game - head|
|August 20, 2013||Carlos Corporan||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 07, 2013||Jonathan Villar||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained hand|
|July 31, 2013||Brandon Barnes||Day-to-Day||Lower back tightness|
|July 27, 2013||Jose Altuve||Day-to-Day||Left quad tightness|
HOUSTON (AP) -- Toronto might start calling Mark Buehrle the streak buster.
For the second time this season, Buehrle ended a Blue Jays seven-game losing streak Sunday.
He allowed one run over eight innings and the Toronto Blue Jays rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to walk away with a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros .
Buehrle (10-7), who also ended the Blue Jays previous seven-game skid with a shutout against the Houston Astros on July 25, allowed seven hits and struck out seven in winning his fifth straight. He has allowed seven runs over 27 innings, spanning his last four starts.
"If you last long enough, good things are going to happen," Buehrle said. "It would be nice to get runs early on, but you have to tip your hat to their pitcher keeping the guys off balance when you got guys on, getting ground balls. Tip your hat to him for not letting us score. Again, we battled until the end. That's why you play 27 outs. We scored runs at the right time."
With the win, Buehrle has earned at least 10 wins in 13 straight seasons, which matches CC Sabathia for the longest active streak in the majors.
"I'd rather forego some of the personal stuff for being in a better position than where we are right now," Buehrle said. "At the end of the day when the season is over and you look at the season, I feel like I am having a decent season, but I have six or seven starts left, so I have to finish strongly and get as many wins as I can."
Casey Janssen pitched the ninth for his 23rd save.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said the win felt good because they have been hard to come by of late for the Blue Jays.
"We have been in so many games on this road trip - all of them except the last two games here where we came up short - so that is eating at you," Gibbons said. "Then, of course it is a losing streak, so winning the last one here always feels good. It doesn't make things any better where we are at right now, but it was something we needed."
Robbie Grossman had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games for the Astros, who have yet to sweep a series at home this season.
Moises Sierra drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game at 1-1 in the ninth. Following Sierra's walk, Chia-Jen Lo (0-2) struck out Kevin Pillar before Kevin Chapman induced a run-scoring groundout by Ryan Goins to put Toronto in front 2-1.
After Chapman walked Jose Reyes , Philip Humber got Rajai Davis to ground out to end the inning.
Houston loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth off Janssen with a walk to pinch hitter Jason Castro before Jonathan Villar singled and pinch hitter Brett Wallace walked, but the closer induced a ground out by Cody Clark to end the game
Dallas Keuchel gave up four hits and three walks with two strikeouts in seven innings. He had allowed four or more runs in each of his last three starts and had allowed at least a run in every start this season.
Keuchel did not allow a Blue Jays runner past second base.
"I just wanted to go out there and work as quickly as possible and give our team a chance to hit," Keuchel said. "But (Buerhle) was pretty much matching me pitch for pitch, and it was actually pretty fun. The last thing I wanted to do was have a long inning, and I am a fast-paced working, so it was nice to see another fast-paced working in Buehrle."
Matt Dominguez scored on Jake Elmore 's double play groundout to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Houston worked the bases loaded with nobody outs as Dominguez walked to lead off the inning, followed by singles by Brandon Barnes and Villar.
Buehrle worked out of the inning on Elmore's double play and got Clark to ground out to end the inning.
"Those veteran guys, when you get them on the ropes early, you want to do everything you can to put crooked up and give yourselves a cushion," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "As you can see, (Buehrle) got out of that, he only gives up the one run, he gets into a groove, and he ends up going as far as he went."
Buehrle had a nice play on an Elmore line drive in the seventh as he took it off his hand, chased it down going to first base and flipped it over to Encarnacion at first using his glove for the second out. After a visit from Toronto manager John Gibbons and the trainer, Buehrle stayed in the game and struck out Clark on three pitches to end the inning.
NOTES: Houston C Carlos Corporan , who has been on the 7-day disabled since August 20 with a concussion, will not make the upcoming trip to Chicago with the Astros. Corporan said he still has headaches, adding that he had a CT scan Friday that came back "good". ... Porter said RHP Jarred Cosart will start Wednesday's game against the White Sox. The Astros had yet to make a decision on Tuesday's starter. ... Toronto has now lost four of the last five series. ... OF Kevin Pillar 's home run Saturday night snapped a streak of 25 straight games without hitting a home run with runners in scoring position.