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Dickey unable to get rotation back on track

With inconsistent knuckler, Blue Jays vet allows five runs over 5 2/3 frames

DETROIT -- The Blue Jays' struggles on the mound went from bad to worse on Saturday afternoon after R.A. Dickey surrendered four runs in the first inning en route to an eventual 8-3 loss to Detroit on Saturday afternoon.

Toronto's starting rotation now has a 4.59 ERA on the season, which is second worst in the American League. The Blue Jays have lost five of their last six games, and it's no coincidence that they fell behind early in each of those losses.

Dickey did eventually settle in vs. the Tigers, but by then it was too late. With ace left-hander David Price on the mound for Detroit, the four-run first inning was all the Tigers needed to put themselves in a position to possibly sweep the series Sunday afternoon.

"Sometimes that's the nature of the game," said Dickey, who allowed five runs while matching a career high with 11 hits. "You have a rough first inning, sometimes you have rough fifth innings, but it is psychologically a little bit more difficult to continue to give the offense a hole to dig out of.

"So, today was a disappointment for sure. At the very least, I was able to eat some innings with a thin 'pen, and hopefully that will put us in a position to be OK for the next few games."

Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos has some tough decisions to make before the July 31st non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Blue Jays have a noticeable hole in the bullpen, but there's an equally pressing need for help in the rotation as well.

Drew Hutchison and Dickey both have ERAs above five and the ability of Marco Estrada (5-4, 3.58 ERA) to maintain his current pace remains in question. With Aaron Sanchez on the disabled list, Toronto currently has four starters in its rotation, and left-hander Mark Buehrle has been the only consistent producer.

That's created a lot of headaches for manager John Gibbons, who has the top-ranked offense in the Majors but not enough pitching to take advantage of the elite bats. Last week, Toronto was five games over .500, but the club is now one above and faces a three-game deficit in the AL East.

"It's not easy, but it happens, so you just deal with it," Gibbons said of the continued pitching woes. "They came out of the gates, put up runs early, then R.A. settled in and really held it in check, but that many runs, that early, against a guy like Price makes it that much tougher."

This outing was particularly disappointing for Dickey, because he had been on a relatively solid run until Saturday's setback. He entered the game having registered four consecutive quality starts, but he also has just one win since the beginning of June and that's starting to take a toll.

To his credit, Dickey didn't shy away from his poor performance and said it was one of those outings where he didn't have a feel for the knuckleball and no matter how many adjustments he tried to make, nothing helped.

"I didn't have much late finish to it," said Dickey, who lost for the first time in seven career starts at Comerica Park. "You can always tell, if I'm not getting many swings and misses with it, most of the time it's not my best one. They were hitting the tops of some balls, and I gave up some cheaper hits, but for the most part I wasn't consistent with the movement, and that's what makes it kind of tough."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
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