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Toronto Blue Jays roll behind veteran Mark Buehrle

By Greg Auman, The Sports Xchange
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle. UPI/John Angelillo | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/6bc0ced0d4d19ce623d6c35a1051ea55/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle. UPI/John Angelillo | License Photo

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he got chills when he went to the mound in the seventh inning, potentially taking the ball from left-hander Mark Buehrle for the last time.

The 36-year-old picked up his 15th win of the season Friday night in an 8-4 win against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, perhaps the final start in a 16-year career.

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"He's been one of the best in baseball, year after year, just durability, wins, doing everything right," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "I had goosebumps when I was taking the ball from him. He's a special guy and his career speaks for itself."

Amusingly, Buehrle could get the nod Sunday -- if the Jays have clinched the AL's top record -- on almost no rest, a chance to get two innings and reach 200 for a 15th straight season.

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"If it doesn't matter, and I can go out there and throw slower than I ever have in my life, I might lobby for it," said Buehrle, unlikely to be part of a postseason rotation on a talented Jays pitching staff.

The Rays (78-82) had hoped to play spoilers in their final series of the season, had a 4-1 lead in the fifth, but the Jays' bats were too much.

Toronto (93-67) came into the night even with Kansas City for the American League's best record, and the Blue Jays held up their end, scoring four runs in the sixth and three in the seventh during their 17-hit night.

The Royals (93-67) beat the Twins 3-1 to keep pace with the Blue Jays.

Leading 5-4 in the seventh, Toronto lit up Rays reliever Andrew Bellatti with three straight huge hits -- first baseman Edwin Encarnacion's 38th home run, a triple by designated hitter Chris Colabello, then a two-run home run by catcher Russell Martin, his 22nd of the season, for the 8-4 lead.

Rays outfielder Brandon Guyer tied a major-league record when he was hit by pitches three times Friday, getting hit all three times by Buehrle.

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"It's my natural instinct to stay in there, so I can't do anything about it," Guyer said. "Some other batters might move their leg and get out of the way. I don't know how to do that. ... If I would have (learned to move), I would have by now I think."

Tampa Bay (78-82) had its three-game win streak snapped and assured itself of a losing record with the loss.

After the Rays jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the fifth, Toronto answered with four runs in the sixth inning for a 5-4 lead, chasing Tampa Bay starter Erasmo Ramirez and reliever Enny Romero.

Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar had an RBI double for the third hit of the inning, and second baseman Ryan Goins hit a two-run triple off the wall in right field to tie the game. The Blue Jays took the lead on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Ben Revere.

The Rays, held to two hits in the first four innings, tagged Buehrle for four runs in the fifth, three of which came on a home run by rookie right fielder Mikie Mahtook. It was Mahtook's eighth homer of the season and fifth since his Sept. 1 call-up.

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NOTES: The local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America gave out its season awards for the Rays on Friday, with 2B Logan Forsythe winning the Don Zimmer Award as team MVP, RHP Nathan Karns as Outstanding Rookie and the team's Champion Award to RHP Chris Archer. ... Toronto went into Friday's game with MLB's best record since the All-Star break at 47-21, two games ahead of the Cubs for baseball's best. They lead the American League in runs, home runs, walks, ERA and WHIP since the break. ... Fans at Tropicana Field greeted Jays 3B Josh Donaldson with chants of "M-V-P" at his first at-bat -- he went into the game with a .300 average, 41 home runs and 123 RBIs. The Rays' starting lineup has two players with more than 34 RBIs -- DH Evan Longoria with 73, SS Asdrubal Cabrera has 57. Every starter in Jays lineup has at least 43 RBIs.

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