Buehrle gives former club vintage performance

Lefty pitches on South Side for perhaps final time

Buehrle gives former club vintage performance

CHICAGO -- Mark Buehrle's sole focus is helping the Blue Jays get to the postseason, but Chicago will always feel like home for the veteran southpaw, and if Monday night was his final start at U.S. Cellular Field, he almost went out with a bang.

Buehrle carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning and was four outs away from a complete game until the White Sox rallied for three runs to steal a victory. The end result was Toronto coming out on the wrong side of a 4-2 score as Buehrle got charged with a loss for the first time since May 29.

Donaldson's barehanded grab

Toronto's veteran lefty remains non-committal about his plans for 2016. His performance this season indicates that he has at least a couple of years left to play, but whether he wants to continue remains in question. If this truly is it, Monday night was the last time he'll take the mound in Chicago.

"I'm staying out in the same subdivision that I stayed at when I was here, making the same drive, stopped at Portillo's, had some lunch today," Buehrle told a swarm of Chicago media after the game. "Just sort of doing the same thing. So, yeah, it's hard not to feel at home. You play somewhere for so long."

Buehrle spent the first 12 years of his career in Chicago and he means as much to the city as Roy Halladay does to Toronto. He took the mound on Monday night to a standing ovation, and odds are if he left the field with a lead in that eighth inning there would have been some cheers then as well.

The feeling is mutual but Buehrle's still loathe to talk about the future. Local reporters peppered him with questions after the game about a possible return to Chicago next season but Buehrle wasn't biting. At one point, he even joked: "I'm a free agent, so if nobody gives me a contract, what am I going to do?"

There's nothing Buehrle would have enjoyed more than picking up a victory in his former town, but it didn't happen on this night. He faced two batters over the minimum through seven innings, and all four runs the White Sox scored were unearned. One scored in the fourth on a throwing error by Jose Bautista, and three scored in the eighth after Jose Reyes started the frame by letting a ball get under his legs.

That's all it took on a night when dominant ace Chris Sale was pitching for the White Sox. Sale and Buehrle were teammates from 2010-11, and by all accounts, they enjoyed a mentor and protege kind of relationship.

"The stuff he has, he should dominate guys," Buehrle said. "If I had that, I feel like I'd strike out 20 every game. No, but he's outstanding. Everybody knew coming into it it was going to be a low-scoring game, and we got a couple runs there and it gave us a chance to take the lead, but he did what he does; he shuts guys down."

Buehrle did receive a scare in the bottom of the fifth inning when he took a sharp grounder off his right ankle. The ball bounced to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who made a sensational running play to get the out at first, but it also took a toll on Buehrle.

There was a large knot on Buehrle's ankle after the game, and he was sent for X-rays, which were negative. He's famous for having never gone on the disabled list, and Buehrle vowed it's not going to happen this time either.

"Why start now?" he asked.

"I felt like it was fine, but [trainer] George Poulis wanted to be on the safe side," Buehrle said of the X-ray. "Got me pretty good. It was a little sore when it first happened. Pulled up my pant leg and there was a pretty big knot there, bigger than I thought there'd be. It'll be a little sore the next couple days, but I'll be all right."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.