CHICAGO -- Mark Buehrle's ability to avoid the big inning on Monday made the White Sox’s offensive output look like an avalanche.
It was a rare sight, as the Sox jumped out to an early lead, built it to a comfortable margin and then closed out the 6-2 victory over the Orioles, but not without a late scare. When it was over, Buehrle walked away with his 150th career victory, just the 10th active player to reach the milestone.
“I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing,” the 32-year-old Buehrle said. “It’s good, I’ve been around the league long enough. And it’s bad, because I’m getting older. Everyone is joking around saying 10½ or 11 more years to get to 300. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
In his last outing, Buehrle had a rough first inning against the New York Yankees and the struggling offense couldn’t cover for him. On Sunday against the Orioles, Gavin Floyd had a meltdown in the fifth inning and the game was essentially lost.
“It’s kind of funny because it’s one inning that’s killing us,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “It could be the first, the third or fourth, fifth or whatever it is. They’re taking advantage of it.”
Buehrle bobbed and weaved on Monday, but figured out how to hold down the Orioles despite allowing plenty of base runners. He made pitches when he needed to, and even got some solid defense, like Juan Pierre's diving catch in the left-field corner in the fourth inning that probably saved two runs.
“It was huge,” Buehrle said. “We just went out and scored a run and I go out and get a couple of guys on base. When I first hit it, I kept on yelling, 'Get foul, get foul,' and then I saw him getting closer and I said, 'Don’t get foul,' because he might have a chance to catch it.”
Buehrle put at least two runners on base in each of the first three innings and five of the first six and got away with it. He never had a 1-2-3 inning.
“I went out there and pitched good enough to hold them down,” Buehrle said. “It was kind of an ugly win. Two guys on base for the first four innings, and I had to pitch out of jams. It would have been nice to go out there and go 1-2-3 in one inning. When I had to make the big pitch, I did.”
The left-hander gave up eight hits with four walks over 6 2/3 innings, but the key number was his zero runs. Even with Robinson Cano's first-inning home run last week that proved costly against the Yankees, Buehrle has pitched back-to-back solid outings.
“He’s good with guys on base,” Paul Konerko said. “He knows how to play off the hitter. I thought A.J. [Pierzynski] called a great game and got some ground balls there in those situations. Those first few innings it seems like they had first-and-second every inning. He doesn’t panic. He knows how to get out of those situations.”
Guillen said afterward that in the new age of baseball with closers and specialists and dwindling pitch counts, 150 victories will be close to being Hall-of-Fame worthy one day. And he said it with a straight face.
“Believe me, I think the Hall of Fame is going to start putting people there with 200 wins,” Guillen said. “I sound cocky but they have to. Maybe 10 years from now, they don’t have 300 wins anymore, 3,000 hits anymore, 500 home runs any more. They better think about that. That was my idea. Remember this day, because there aren’t going to be many guys with that many home runs, games, wins.”
Buehrle isn’t too worried about the Hall of Fame argument.
“It’s just a round number,” he said about his 150th victory. “I don’t know if I’m downplaying it more than everyone else. Everyone is in here congratulating me. Ozzie gave me a bottle of champagne. It’s kind of like it’s just a round number: 140, 150, 160 they’re all round numbers.
“Obviously, it’s 150 more than I’ve ever dreamed of having. When you get to the big leagues you want to stay here, and 10, 11 years later, I have 150 wins. It’s a great honor, but I don’t see how big it is.”