ATLANTA — Mark Buehrle was hardly pleased with Toronto dropping a series opener against one of the major leagues’ worst teams.
Even so, the 36-year-old lefty showed that he’s healthy enough to help the Blue Jays win the AL East for the first time since 1993.
“The biggest thing I take away from it is that I felt better than I have in the last few starts,” Buehrle said.
Despite losing 3-2 to the struggling Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, Toronto still has a three-game division lead after the New York Yankees lost 6-3 at Tampa Bay.
The Blue Jays, despite the majors’ best record since the All-Star break, have lost two straight.
Andrelton Simmons’ tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth inning snapped the Braves’ 12-game home losing streak, the longest in franchise history.
Aaron Sanchez (7-6) took the loss, allowing four hits, one run and striking out one in 1 1-3 innings. The right-hander had runners on second and third with one out when Simmons drove the ball through the right side of the infield.
“I wasn’t going to walk him,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “With Sanchez on the mound, he’s a groundball machine, especially against right-handers. The guy hit the ball on the ground. It just found a hole. That’s just the way it goes.”
The Braves won at Turner Field for the first time since Aug. 24, against Colorado. Overall, they are 15-46 since July 8.
Buehrle struck out two and gave up six hits, one walk and two runs — one earned — in five innings. He threw just 66 pitches after getting a cortisone shot in his throwing shoulder Sept. 8.
“You can’t just assume we’re going to win three games because they’re not good and we are,” Buehrle said. “But again, it comes down to I felt good, and that’s all that matters.”
Arodys Vizcaino (3-1) faced the minimum in the ninth to earn the win.
Blue Jays sluggers Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista went a combined 0 for 8 with four strikeouts. First baseman Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto’s other big bat, missed his second straight game with an injured finger.
“The story was we didn’t score,” said Gibbons, whose team leads the majors with 203 homers. “Bottom line is we win when we score. We didn’t score enough tonight.”
Justin Smoak drew a leadoff walk in the second inning and Toronto took the game’s first lead on Cliff Pennington’s RBI single. Smoak’s 16th homer, a solo shot to start the sixth, made it 2-all.
Atlanta went up 2-1 in the bottom of the second when Simmons grounded out and Freddie Freeman reached on first baseman Smoak’s fielding error.
Braves starter Julio Teheran allowed five hits, two runs, four walks and struck out seven in 5 2-3 innings. He threw 113 pitches.
Brett Cecil pitched a perfect sixth for Toronto, his 25th consecutive scoreless inning, most by an AL reliever this year.
TO THE ‘PEN
Gibbons has moved RHP Drew Hutchison to the bullpen as RHP Marcus Stroman moves into the five-man rotation. Gibbons told Hutchison, who is 13-4 but has a 5.33 ERA in 27 starts, on Sunday. Stroman returned from a season-long knee injury to win Saturday at Yankee Stadium. Hutchison has a 9.44 ERA on the road this year.
BLUE JAYS: Gibbons said Encarnacion, who was out of the lineup for the second straight game with an injured finger, should return before “too much longer.”
BRAVES: Manager Fredi Gonzalez said RHP Mike Foltynewicz, out since Sept. 2 with a virus and rib injury, could throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and return when a three-game series begins Sept. 21 at the New York Mets. Gonzalez will put Foltynewicz in the bullpen. … LHP Manny Banuelos was scheduled to visit Dr. James Andrews for an elbow exam. Banuelos has already undergone Tommy John surgery.
BLUE JAYS: LHP David Price (15-5) will make his ninth start since arriving in a trade with Detroit. Price is 6-1 with a 2.28 ERA for Toronto.
BRAVES: RHP Shelby Miller (5-14) will try to win for the first time in 22 starts, the longest career streak for a pitcher making an All-Star team in the same season. Miller, whose 2.86 ERA ranks sixth in the NL, has received by far the worst run support in the majors with less than 2.4 per start.
George Henry, The Associated Press