Dickey's knuckleball cooperates, but back does not
Righty cruises through six innings before experiencing tightness
TORONTO -- R.A Dickey's first few starts in a Blue Jays uniform have been a little bit like his knuckleball, dancing wildly between all of the good spots and all of the bad spots.
The Blue Jays avoided a series loss to the Chicago White Sox with a 3-1 victory at Rogers Centre on Thursday night, many thanks to the 38-year-old finding the perfect release point for his unrelenting signature pitch.
"That's the first time I have seen one, so for me, it was kind of like someone turned off the lights every couple feet as it was coming to you -- it was moving that much," said Chicago's Tyler Flowers, who struck out in his first at-bat.
Dickey (2-2) reclaimed his Cy Young Award form from a year ago in the National League, retiring the first 11 batters he faced. But his fourth start with his new club came to an unexpected end after six shutout innings.
"I had a knuckleball tonight where I would've thrown a complete game tonight with that," Dickey said.
Dickey did not return for the seventh inning as a precaution with neck and back tightness. Dickey threw just 64 pitches in his six innings of work, striking out seven batters. He allowed two hits and walked one.
"It was a gutsy performance, because it's been bothering him for a couple of days," manager John Gibbons said. "Going into tonight, we didn't know what we were going to get."
Gibbons and head trainer George Poulis visited Dickey on the mound after he winced following a strikeout of Dewayne Wise in the sixth, but he appeared to be all right, facing Jeff Keppinger and retiring him on one pitch to end the inning.
The Nashville, Tenn., native has been dealing with lingering stiffness in his upper back since his last start Saturday in Kansas City. He described the location as radiating down from the neck to between his shoulder blade and his spine on his throwing side.
"I was able to get through another inning and a third after I felt it. It got better throughout the course of the week, enough so that I felt comfortable taking the ball [Thursday]," Dickey said.
Though the Blue Jays still couldn't generate a significant offensive contribution with their bats, it only took a handful of hits and their opponent's errors to give Dickey his second win of the season.
The Blue Jays went 4-for-27, and the first hit sparked the scoring.
Continuing to hit well against left-handed pitching, Rajai Davis led off the first with a single against Chris Sale (1-2). He then stole his third and fourth bases of the season, advancing to third and setting up Edwin Encarnacion's RBI single to give the Blue Jays an early 1-0 lead.
"I think that comes second nature to me. It's just something I've done since I was in Little League," Davis said of his menacing demeanor on the basepaths. "I feel at home there ... how it feels for [a pitcher] -- it is to be seen."
The run in the first marked only the fifth time in the past 16 games that an offensively-starved Toronto team has been able to open the scoring, and the Blue Jays scored three or less runs for the 10th time in 15 games.
Sale settled down, but hit Emilio Bonifacio with a pitch in the fifth, and didn't appear able to recover from the bad throw.
With Henry Blanco at the plate, an errant pick-off attempt to first by the lefty allowed Bonifacio to advance to third. The errors didn't end there for the White Sox. A routine grounder to first by Munenori Kawasaki was fumbled by Adam Dunn, and Bonifacio scored on the play.
"That's part of their game: Get them on, and that's what they can do. It puts the pressure on the other team," Gibbons said. "This turned out to be the type of ballgame where those things can make a big difference."
Davis doubled to center field for his second hit of the night and scored Kawasaki, giving the Blue Jays an insurance run.
"[Something to take] from this game is start paying closer attention to the runners," Sale said. "They just had free reign out there it seemed like, especially in the first."