Mark Buehrle almost single-handedly snapped the Blue Jays’ seven-game losing streak on Thursday, throwing a two-hitter against the Astros for his ninth career shutout.
Buehrle’s previous two shutouts were his two no-hitters, the first against the Rangers on 2007 and the other being a perfect game against the Rays in 2009. He hadn’t thrown a shutout that wasn’t a no-hitter since 2005.
Buehrle, never a big strikeout guy, also fanned nine for just the third time in his stellar career. He struck out 12 Mariners on April 16, 2005, but that was his only double-digit strikeout game. He also had nine strikeouts way back on June 26, 2003 against the Twins.
Buehrle said afterwards that he was inspired to have a quick outing tonight (the contest took just 2:18); he was slated to attend a Tim McGraw concert following the game.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.