Buehrle returns to Chicago on winning streak
Mark Buehrle spent the last 12 years as the most consistent - and often the best - pitcher in Chicago.
In a new league and a new city, his performances have been similar with the Miami Marlins in 2012.
Buehrle will make his return to the Windy City as he attempts to win his fifth straight start Thursday against the Chicago Cubs.
Buehrle (9-8, 3.13 ERA) joined Miami in the offseason via free agency, leaving behind an impressive legacy in Chicago.
The left-hander helped the White Sox win the 2005 World Series, also tossing a perfect game in 2009 and a no-hitter two years earlier. Buehrle's 161 wins for the South Side club were the most by any pitcher in Chicago since 2000, besting Carlos Zambrano's 125 with the Cubs.
The former crosstown rivals are now teammates with the Marlins. Zambrano's turn in the rotation didn't come up in this series, which is also Miami manager Ozzie Guillen's first in the city since leaving the White Sox.
Buehrle, who has a chance to keep pace with CC Sabathia by reaching double digits in wins for the 12th consecutive year, said he'll be prepared for boos.
"I wouldn't see any reason for (the Wrigley Field crowd) to cheer me, being on the opposite side the whole time," Buehrle told the Marlins' official website.
He'll try to help the Marlins take two of three after they fell 5-1 Wednesday in a game that was called in the eighth inning due to rain. Miami won the series opener 9-5.
Buehrle, Miami's leader in wins and ERA among starters, has posted a 0.94 ERA while winning his last four starts. He has 29 strikeouts over 28 2-3 innings in that stretch, well above his typical rate.
"I'm still scratching my own head to try to figure out what I'm doing striking all these guys out," Buehrle said Saturday after beating Washington 2-1.
He's also 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his last five starts against the Cubs (37-53). He was outstanding against them April 18 in Miami, yielding one run in eight innings of a 9-1 victory.
The Marlins (44-47) would love to give him that kind of support again after stranding 11 runners Wednesday and going 0 for 8 with men in scoring position. Their .227 average this season in those situations ranks 29th in the majors.
"That's what we doing the best: leaving people on base," Guillen said. "Every time we play good it's because we drive those guys (in). We take advantage. When we don't, we have the result we have (Wednesday)."
Emilio Bonifacio was a homer shy of the cycle Wednesday but had no runs or RBIs. He has a .417 average in his last nine meetings with Chicago and he's 3 for 7 versus Paul Maholm, the Cubs' scheduled starter Thursday.
Maholm (7-6, 4.33) is trying to win four starts in a row for the second time this year. The left-hander accomplished the feat behind a 1.07 ERA from April 21-May 9.
He has a 0.81 ERA over his last four appearances - one in relief. Maholm was outstanding again Friday, yielding one run and scattering six hits over seven innings of an 8-1 win over Arizona.
"I made some good pitches, got the ground balls or easier pop-ups and the defense made some great plays," Maholm told the Cubs' official website. "For me, it's getting ahead, keeping the ball down and mixing speeds and not trying to do a whole lot."
Maholm has lost his last two starts versus the Marlins, getting tagged for 10 runs and 15 hits with five walks and two hit batters over 9 1-3 innings while with Pittsburgh.
Chicago has won 13 of 18 overall, including nine of 11 at home.