Mark Buehrle's first season with the Toronto Blue Jays has mirrored that of his team. It was mostly very disappointing until recently.
The 14-year veteran could improve to .500 and help the Blue Jays get within a game of that mark if their longest winning streak in nearly five years continues Wednesday night against the Colorado Rockies.
Buehrle (3-4, 4.66 ERA), who hasn't finished under .500 since 2006, has reached at least 13 wins in five straight seasons but is on pace to fall short of double digits. That's due greatly to a 1-3 record and 6.33 ERA through his first nine starts.
The left-hander served up 11 homers in that span but has since allowed one in 33 innings, going 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA in five starts - four Toronto victories.
"It's not like he's come out of nowhere," manager John Gibbons said. "But he's got to be on as good a roll as anybody in baseball."
So are the Blue Jays (34-36), whose seven-game winning streak is their best since posting 10 consecutive victories Aug. 30-Sept. 9, 2008. This run has pushed Toronto within one win of .500 for the first time since mid-April, and the team has been below the break-even mark since July despite many big-name acquisitions - including Buehrle.
His best performance in a Blue Jays uniform came Friday, giving up four hits and striking out seven in seven innings of an 8-0 win at Texas.
That's part of an outstanding run by the Toronto staff, posting a 0.67 ERA in the last six games and holding opponents to a .192 average.
"If we could do that all year, we wouldn't lose a game, I bet," Buehrle told the team's official website. "... I wouldn't expect to keep this rate up for too much."
While Blue Jays pitchers haven't allowed a home run in 52 consecutive innings, their lineup has hit 15 in the past eight games after a three-homer effort Tuesday in an 8-3 victory over the Rockies. J.P. Arencibia homered for the third time in four games, Edwin Encarnacion hit his team-leading 19th and Maicer Izturis went deep to give him a .333 average in the last eight games.
Colorado (37-35), on the other hand, has yet to homer in this series and now looks to avoid another three-game sweep in Toronto. The Rockies have hit .176 in losing all eight games they've played there.
Juan Nicasio (4-2, 4.86) will face the Blue Jays for the first time, possibly pitching to save his spot in the rotation with newcomer Roy Oswalt to debut Thursday.
Nicasio is winless in his past five starts due largely to struggles as the game goes deeper. He's given up a combined six runs through the first five innings but has allowed 11 after that - and he's yet to pitch past the sixth this season.
"He's had some struggles after the fifth," manager Walt Weiss said. "He's been dominant at times early then run into some trouble in the sixth inning."
Buehrle has had no such trouble lately, and he's 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA in two starts versus the Rockies.
No one has faced him more than Michael Cuddyer, who has gone 34 for 107 (.318) against Buehrle and enters this matchup riding a career-high, 16-game hitting streak.
Fellow Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler (finger) did not start for the third time in five games Tuesday and his status for this game is uncertain.