ARLINGTON -- The Blue Jays still have a long way to go, but they are ever so slowly starting to dig out of an early-season rut.
Toronto has finally started to play like it was expected to, and it seems that a different person has stepped up each game.
It was Mark Buehrle's turn Friday night as he tossed seven scoreless innings while Colby Rasmus and J.P. Arencibia added home runs in an 8-0 victory over Texas at Rangers Ballpark.
"We just have to continue to play good baseball from here on out really," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, adding that pitching would be what dictates how well this team plays.
"We're trying to climb back into this thing. So they go out there every time and give us a chance to win. We have some veteran guys in our rotation that have been around that know what it takes to win; they've been there before, and they have a lot of pride."
The victory moved the Blue Jays to within six games of .500 for the first time since April 26. They have won three consecutive games and seven of their past 10 with a chance for another series victory with a win in Texas either Saturday or Sunday.
Toronto still has plenty of work to do -- the club finds itself 9 1/2 games behind Boston in the American League East, with the Orioles, Yankees and Rays also ahead of them in the standings. But there are signs that things are at least beginning to turn around.
The Blue Jays entered play Friday night with the fourth-best winning percentage in the American League since May 11 (.571), but the margin for error still remains small as the club attempts to climb back to .500, and then go from there.
"I feel like some things are starting to go our way," Rasmus said. "Some of our pitchers are starting to settle in a little bit, and I think that's helping us. We've swung the bats pretty well all year; we've gone through some ruts, but now it's starting to show a little bit."
Buehrle continued his resurgence with another masterful performance on the mound. He faced just three batters over the minimum and allowed only one runner to reach scoring position en route to his third victory of the season.
The veteran left-hander allowed just four hits and one walk while striking out a season-high seven. He threw 64 of his 100 pitches for strikes, and it was only the high pitch count that stopped him from going back out for the eighth inning.
Buehrle had a nightmare start to the season but has been extremely effective over his last seven outings. He has recorded six quality starts over that span with a 2.54 ERA but has only two victories to show for it because of a lack of run support.
The impressive run of starts has lowered Buehrle's ERA to 4.66. There is still plenty of room for improvement on that number, but it is a far cry from the 7.02 mark he had May 6.
"Both of my brothers texted me and said, '4.66 now,' congratulating me," Buehrle said with a laugh. "I was like, 'that's still terrible,' but obviously [compared with] where it was.
"Wins kind of come and go, and you can't control some of that, but your ERA and innings are the things I look at personally. So for that to keep going down, I know I'm going out there deep into games and giving my team a chance to win."
Run support certainly was not an issue Friday night as the Blue Jays scored four runs in the fourth inning against Texas right-hander Justin Grimm. It was the second time in as many starts against Toronto this season that Grimm was charged with a four-run inning.
Rasmus got the Blue Jays started when he sent a three-run blast over the wall in right field. It was his second three-run shot of the season and his 11th home run of the year. Arencibia followed two batters later with a solo shot just over the wall in left-center field for his 13th homer of the year and first since May 27 against the Braves.
"I was trying to be on that slider, so I was a little late on some of those heaters," Rasmus said. "The first one I hit he got it in on me just enough, and then the second one I was able to get inside of a little more and get it out. He threw me quite a bit of heaters, and after [Yu] Darvish last night I was trying to be on those breaking balls a little better.
Rangers manager Ron Washington stuck with his starting pitcher despite the early struggles, and the move would soon backfire. Grimm allowed another run in the fifth on an RBI single by Adam Lind; a run in the seventh as Emilio Bonifacio scored after a leadoff double; and an additional run in the eighth on an RBI double by Maicer Izturis.
Grimm was charged with seven runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out four. It marked the second time in his past three outings that Grimm allowed at least seven runs in his start.
"It's part of the learning experience," Grimm said. "I didn't go with my strengths. I know how to get those guys outs, got away from it and it produced the big inning. I got to learn a little damage control. It seems to be the difference in my last couple outings."
The Blue Jays have yet to lose a series in June, and that streak is guaranteed to continue at least until they return home early next week. But winning series is what the club is really after, and there are still two chances to make it happen in Texas.