Dickey's knuckleball off as Blue Jays lose '14 opener
Veteran walks six, allows six runs; Reyes on DL with tight hamstring
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Blue Jays began their 2014 season with an all-too-familiar scenario as the pitching struggled, the defense was off its game and the offense was unable to make up the difference.
In many ways, Toronto's first game of the year was a microcosm of last season. The Blue Jays fell behind early thanks to a subpar pitching performance and things seemed to get worse as the game continued.
No. 1 starter R.A. Dickey walked six and allowed six runs in the 9-2 loss to the Rays on Monday. The outing had a bit of a deja-vu feeling to it and Dickey certainly didn't shy away from the responsibility afterwards.
"I just lost the feel of it there for a little bit," Dickey said of his knuckleball. "I was struggling to find a release point and I just did a poor, poor job of making the in-game adjustments that I needed to make ... I just didn't have the finish on it today and that's part of accepting what the pitch is, it doesn't always cooperate but at the same time I expect a lot more out of myself than that. That was completely my loss."
Dickey encountered trouble in almost every inning with the exception of the fourth, when he had a three-up, three-down frame. Wil Myers was responsible for a lot of the damage as he went 2-for-4 off Dickey with a double, a run scored and two RBIs. Matt Joyce also got in on the action with a two-run double and a sacrifice fly.
The six runs were the most Dickey had allowed in a start since an outing against the Twins on July 6, 2013. The six walks tied a career high and were the most he issued since Sept. 17, 2011, against the Braves. It's also Dickey's second consecutive loss on Opening Day after he allowed four runs in an outing against the Indians last April.
All in all, it was a game to forget for the club's No. 1 starter. That's particularly frustrating considering it came against a team and in a ballpark where Dickey typically has success.
"For whatever reason, my velocity just wasn't there," said Dickey, who allowed five hits over five innings. "I had been working so hard in the spring of getting it up and I felt like I had it at that place. Tonight I went to the well and it just wasn't there. I'm used to seeing some 80s, 81s, 79s and I don't know if I had any. There's a certain rhythm to the season that starts to occur, hopefully this is the anomaly."
While Dickey struggled, Tampa Bay left-hander David Price was almost untouchable through the first seven innings. The lone positive on offense for Toronto came in the eighth when Erik Kratz launched a pinch-hit two-run homer off Price that momentarily cut the deficit to four.
That was the only blemish against Price, who escaped a couple of early jams and allowed just those two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out six. It was the first Opening Day victory of Price's career and the outing marked a continuation of his dominance over Toronto: 14-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 18 starts.
"Making pitches, throwing strikes, letting my defense play defense," Price said after the game. "Those guys are extremely good behind me and I know that."
Blue Jays right-hander Jeremy Jeffress should have taken a similar approach. He entered during the eighth and after fielding a grounder off the bat of Myers, Jeffress threw the ball wide of first base and into the right-field corner.
Myers kept running, Jose Bautista picked up the ball and had his throw short hop Ryan Goins, who was covering third base. Jeffress compounded the issue by forgetting to back up the bag and when the ball got away from Goins, it allowed Myers to score. The grounder, which originally rolled about 15 feet, was officially ruled a single, but essentially turned into a home run.
That ended any chance of a comeback as the Blue Jays took a seven-run loss in their first game. The biggest blow, though, wasn't felt in the win-loss columns but instead with another potentially serious injury to shortstop Jose Reyes.
In the first, Reyes had to leave with left hamstring tightness. The issue had been bothering Reyes during the final week of Spring Training, and even though he was cleared for the season, it didn't take long for the injury to resurface. Infielder Ryan Goins replaced Reyes, and the end result was a major blow to Toronto's lineup. After the game, Reyes was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
"We're Game 1 of 162 here so nobody is going to panic, but at the same time, there are certain things that we're going to have to address," Dickey said. "Every team in a championship season has to work through adversity. We're having to do that from Day 1 here with Jose tweaking a little bit of something. ... I certainly have to right the ship. It's one game, we have a long, long way to go."
With the loss, the Blue Jays' record on Opening Day dropped to 19-19. The game also was a continuation of Toronto's prolonged struggles against Tampa Bay. Toronto hasn't won a series at Tropicana Field since April 6-9, 2007, and the only way that can change in this series is if the Blue Jays win the next three games before returning home Friday.