White Sox offense against Mark Buehrle: Who's catching whom at the right time?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Buehrle's first start against his former team will pit a struggling starter against scuffling hitters

Stop me if you've heard this: The struggling White Sox offense will get a chance to work out some problems against a former teammate struggling through a slow start of his own.

OK, so it didn't work out so well against Brett Myers on Sunday. Sure, the Sox came away with a 3-1 victory, but they didn't put a lot of convincing swings on Myers' sub-90s stuff. Had he not made an unfortunate pitch selection to Paul Konerko, the Sox still might be winless for the road in 2013.

Now here comes Mark Buehrle, who is also trying to get his ERA back into the single digits. His return to the American League hasn't been what Blue Jays fans hoped for, as he enters his start against the White Sox tonight with these two lines in the books:

Date Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA Pit GSc
Apr 4 CLE W,10-8 5.1 7 6 6 1 4 2 2 10.12 88 33
Apr 10 DET W,8-6 4.1 7 6 5 2 2 0 0 10.24 96 27
9.2 14 12 11 3 6 2 2 10.24

This is an uncharacteristic development, as the rapid-firing lefty is usually a fast starter. It's his worst-ever ERA through his first two starts, and only two other seasons are in the ballpark.

Back in 2008, Buehrle gave up seven runs over 1 2/3 innings on Opening Day, digging such a hole that even an excellent second outing (one earned run over seven innings) only lowered his ERA to 8.31.

Otherwise, you have to go back to 2001, which is comparable (he threw two mediocre games), while being not at all the same (he was 22 years old and starting his first full season). Sure, he had an 8.44 through two starts, but nobody knew what his future would look like.

Except for those two seasons, Buehrle could be relied upon to get off on the good foot, so this is unchartered territory. He's had share of problems:

Velocity: Pitching in Rogers Centre on April 4, Buehrle sat around 86 mph with his fastball and 81-82 mph with his cutter, which is roughly where he was in his last season with the Sox. But in the frigid weather against Detroit, he lost more than two ticks. which is scary.

Environment: Buehrle is used to pitching in hitter-friendly parks, but Rogers Centre is going to test his homer-prevention powers. He gave up a pair of blasts to the Indians, but the Blue Jays bailed him out with five of their own.

Defense: Buehrle needs gloves behind him, and thanks to injuries, the mismatched Toronto infield hasn't able to cut it. Maicier Izturis isn't a natural third baseman, and Emilio Bonifacio has been exposed with regular reps at second. They combined to make Buehrle's start against Detroit on Wednesday exceptionally difficult:

Wednesday, a pair of [Omar] Infante drives got past Izturis, the first for an RBI single and 2-0 lead, and in the fifth inning to instigate a four-run rally for Detroit’s 6-1 lead. Bonifacio twice had Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder beat his throws to first, booted a grounder leading to an unearned run, and had a catchable bloop single drop in back of him to cap the Tigers’ four-run fifth inning.

Buehrle's line -- 4⅓ IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K -- wasn't representative of his effort, especially since Steve Delabar relieved Buehrle and issued two bases-loaded walks, followed by a single to put three more runs on Buehrle's tab.

Fortunately for Buehrle, he hasn't been under the microscope because R.A. Dickey struggled in his first two starts before a triumph in his third, and Josh Johnson has been worse. That will change tonight, because the story is all about Buehrle facing the team that raised him for the first time. But if the Sox offense continues on its current path, they could be the cure for what ails him. Who needs national health care?

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