Pitching against the Chicago White Sox was certainly awkward for Mark Buehrle. Facing Jose Abreu for the first time won’t make him any more comfortable.
No player has more homers this season – or this month – than Abreu, and Buehrle has suddenly been serving up his fair share. The Toronto Blue Jays left-hander is looking to avoid his longest losing streak in two years Sunday by beating his former team for the second time in as many tries.
Long balls have been commonplace in Toronto this weekend, with 13 of the teams’ 16 runs in the last two games coming off nine homers. After Blue Jays call-up Darin Mastroianni delivered a two-run shot for his first hit of the season Saturday, Abreu doubled and scored on Dayan Viciedo’s go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning as Chicago won 4-3.
The White Sox (38-44) had been 1-7 on an 11-game trip, which ends Sunday, before winning the last two days.
"After a road trip like this that hasn’t really gone our way, to keep fighting and to keep staying in there and just going forward really says what kind of guys we’ve got in here," ace Chris Sale said after winning Saturday.
Edwin Encarnacion grounded out to end the game but is batting .405 in his last 10 with five homers. He and Abreu each have 25 homers.
Abreu has hit 10 in June, including six in his last 11 games, and homered twice in a 5-4 win Friday.
The good news for Buehrle (10-4, 2.52 ERA) is Chicago has one homer – by Abreu – in its last 188 at-bats against southpaws and has hit .210 against them since June 1.
Buehrle allowed only two homers all season before giving up five in his last four games. He’s 0-3 in that span and hasn’t suffered more consecutive losses since a four-game skid with Miami from June 1-19, 2012. He has surrendered at least three runs in three straight outings, something he did just three times through his first 13.
His only start against the team with which he spent his first 11 seasons came April 15, 2013. He beat Chicago by giving up two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-3 victory, admitting it was strange facing so many old friends.
"I tried not to take a look at too many guys stepping into the batter’s box because I knew I’d start laughing or something bad would happen," said Buehrle, sixth on the White Sox’s wins list with 161.
Counterpart Jose Quintana (4-7, 3.69) snapped a four-start winless streak Tuesday, yielding one run and striking out eight in a 4-2 win at Baltimore. It was a second consecutive strong effort over seven innings by Quintana, though he gave up a homer in both starts after not allowing one in nine straight.
The Blue Jays (45-38) lead the majors with 108 homers, but Quintana hasn’t yielded one in two starts in Toronto and won both. He’s 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts versus the Blue Jays, losers of eight of 12.
Encarnacion is 3 for 8 with a homer against him, but the only other Blue Jay to take Quintana deep is Jose Bautista and he’s unlikely to play. Bautista has missed the past six games with a strained hamstring and Toronto has Monday off.
"Trust me, he won’t be out there if he’s not ready to go," manager John Gibbons told MLB’s official website. "We want to make sure he’s going to be good and ready because we need him for the rest of the year."
Viciedo, who also homered Friday, has hit .410 with four homers in 11 games in Toronto.