The Toronto Blue Jays have seized first place behind a meteoric surge.
On a roll of his own, Mark Buehrle will try to help them match a club record for the second time this season Thursday against visiting Oakland - and he won't be opposing the Athletics' ace.
Trailing the New York Yankees by 6 1/2 games in the AL East after Aug. 1, Toronto (63-52) has outscored opponents 55-20 while winning 10 straight since. The Blue Jays climbed atop the division by one half-game after Wednesday's 10-3 victory coupled with the Yankees' loss to Cleveland. They hadn't been in first place since a 9-7 record after April 23 tied them with Boston and New York.
"It's great, don't get me wrong, but I think everyone in this club wants to be in first place on Game 162," Chris Colabello said after hitting his 11th home run. "That's what's important."
The Blue Jays can become the first team since the then-Florida Marlins in 2006 to match its best-ever winning streak twice in the same year. They also won 11 in a row June 2-14.
Buehrle (12-5, 3.34 ERA) is 7-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 13 starts since May 29, throwing at least seven innings in nine of 10. He surrendered multiple homers for the first time in 10 games Thursday, but limited Minnesota to three runs - all on those two shots - over seven innings in a 9-3 victory.
Buehrle's ERA is his lowest since 2005 when he went 16-8 for the Chicago White Sox.
Toronto's high-powered offense has been a superb complement to his trademark pitch-to-contact style. Opponents are making contact on a major league-high 24.6 percent of Buehrle's pitches, but he has been backed by a career-high 7.24 run support average.
"I don't know if it's the guys we brought in here, or the way we're playing right now, it's just that feeling that if we get down two runs in the first or second inning, just try to hold the other team down because we know we're going to score runs," he told MLB's official website. "Especially with this offense, we can put up a bunch of runs."
Buehrle held Oakland (51-64) to one run over seven innings in a 7-1 road victory July 21, improving to 5-1 with a 2.51 ERA in his last seven meetings.
Toronto continued to flex its offensive muscle Wednesday, also getting a home run from Justin Smoak. The Blue Jays have gone deep 18 times during their winning streak, even with Edwin Encarnacion missing the last three games due to a finger injury. Encarnacion, who is hitting .400 during an 11-game hitting streak, could return Thursday.
Sonny Gray looked like a challenging hurdle for Toronto, but Oakland announced three hours before Thursday's first pitch that he'd be scratched due to back spasms after logging three complete games in his last six starts.
Jesse Chavez (6-11, 3.73) will instead get the ball against the team he pitched for briefly in 2012. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA in two appearances - one start - against Toronto since joining the A's in August of that season.
Chavez lasted a total of 11 2-3 innings, yielding 13 runs, in his three starts before holding Houston to a run over seven in a 2-1 win Saturday despite matching a career high with four walks.
Oakland is averaging 2.9 runs over its last 19 contests.