TORONTO -- It's been four years since Mark Buehrle last threw a shutout, and it seems like it's been just as long since the Blue Jays walked away with a victory.
On Thursday night in Toronto, both streaks were broken.
The Blue Jays were mired in a season-high seven-game slump, but Buehrle's best effort in a Toronto uniform was enough to snap the funk.
The veteran southpaw took a no-hitter into the fifth and was able to complete the two-hit shutout as the Blue Jays defeated the Astros, 4-0, in front of 24,188 at Rogers Centre.
"He was marvelous," said Adam Lind, whose pinch-hit double added an insurance run in the seventh. "He threw the heck out of that baseball tonight."
It was evident early on that the lefty was working with his best stuff. Not typically a strikeout pitcher, Buehrle sat down five in his first two innings, all of them swinging. He retired 13 of the first 15 batters he faced.
By the end of the night, the 34-year-old struck out nine Houston batters, including former Blue Jay Brett Wallace three times, racking up the most strikeouts he's had in one game since April 16, 2005.
"I had everything working," Buehrle said. "I was making pitches when I had to, movement was good, keeping guys off balance. I'm not going to sit here and say it was one pitch that was making guys strike out a lot. I struck out multiple guys on certain pitches, but it was just one of those games that I had everything going for me"
Buehrle was so sharp that he faced only four batters over the minimum, and he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, which was broken up by a well-struck two-out single up the middle by right fielder Justin Maxwell.
"What we witnessed tonight was an experienced Major League pitcher that executed a game plan," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "Obviously, they watched film, they watched our hitters, and it was pretty evident they had a good game plan how he was going to attack our hitters."
It was Buehrle's first complete game since May 5, 2012, against the Padres, and his first shutout since his perfect game vs. the Rays in July 2009.
"Today was one of those days that obviously I had a lot of stuff working for me," said Buehrle, whose parents were in attendance for his performance. "I'm sure a lot of people will be saying, obviously, this is the worst team in baseball. Record-wise, they're not very good, but in my mind, they're still big league hitters. If you make a mistake, they're going to make you pay for it."
"He kept them off balance. That's typical Buehrle," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons added. "It came along at a time when we definitely needed it, because our bullpen is kind of tired."
Although the Blue Jays would eventually strike for some insurance runs in the seventh, Erik Bedard almost matched Buehrle in his five innings on the mound in his fifth career start in his native country.
Bedard faced the minimum through three, and only allowed three hits and a walk while striking out six. However, he gave up the decisive run in the fourth and had to settle for the loss, lowering his record to 3-8.
It was the big bats of the Blue Jays that finally broke open the game. After Jose Bautista walked with two outs in the fourth, Edwin Encarnacion hit a double into the right-field corner, scoring Bautista from first.
The pair was also responsible for applying the pressure in the three-run seventh against reliever Lucas Harrell. Each drew a walk, and pinch-hitter Adam Lind hit an RBI double to left field. Maicer Izturis then singled up the middle to drive in Encarnacion and Lind.
They were the type of insurance runs and clutch hits that have been few and far between lately.
"It's important every night. Just to give our pitchers some breathing room," Lind said of the team's three-run seventh. "You saw what happened last night when we couldn't score an additional insurance run. ... [I]t just makes things a lot easier for your starting pitcher or bullpen when you can add on one or two extra runs."
For the club, the win was a sigh of relief after losing six straight since the All-Star break.
"Just to prove to ourselves that we can win a game," Lind said of the significance of the victory. "It was nice to come in [to the clubhouse] and play some loud music. We didn't know what song to play, because it's been so long."
With the victory, the Blue Jays posted their first win since July 13th vs. the Orioles in Baltimore.
"It's been a while. Shoot, I haven't shaken anyone's hand lately," Gibbons said.