Dickey struggles as Blue Jays fall to Tribe
Knuckleballer surrenders four runs in first Opening Night start
TORONTO -- R.A. Dickey is at his best when the knuckleball is dancing all over the place, but on Opening Night versus the Indians, his go-to pitch moved almost too much.
Toronto's No. 1 starter had some difficulty finding the strike zone during the early stages of his debut in a Blue Jays uniform while catcher J.P. Arencibia also had issues keeping the ball in front of him.
Dickey walked four batters and surrendered a total of four runs as the new-look Blue Jays came out on the wrong end of a 4-1 score in front of 48,857 fans at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
"I didn't feel like I gave up many hard-hit balls," Dickey said after the first Opening Day start of his career. "That's a sign of a lot of movement. Early on in particular, it was moving pretty violently right at the plate and you saw that manifest in J.P. struggling with it a little bit. That's part of it ... but it was moving pretty good."
Dickey is expected to use the controlled climate at Rogers Centre to his advantage this season. The knuckleball can become lethal when it doesn't have to deal with gusting winds, and during the summer months a lack of humidity also could work in Dickey's favor when the roof is closed.
When the knuckleball is sheltered from the dangers of Mother Nature, it has the ability to float and sink on its own. That causes nightmares for opposing hitters, but it can also become an issue for the catcher behind the plate.
Arencibia experienced that first hand as he was charged with three passed balls in the first two innings before settling into a groove with Dickey. Two of the errors helped contribute to a pair of runs in the second inning as runners advanced and then came around to score on an RBI grounder by Lonnie Chisenhall and an RBI single by Drew Stubbs.
"I had more movement tonight than I had all of Spring Training," Dickey said. "It's just the nature of some adrenaline, velocities were back up and the dome's nice to throw in.
"The release point was a struggle for me tonight a little bit, because it was moving so much early, but I felt like I had a pretty good handle on it for most of the night. I think I walked four guys all of Spring Training, so that was an anomaly for me. But you have to have a workmanlike mentality in this game and we'll get it right."
Dickey got through the third and fourth innings unscathed, but the big blow for Cleveland came in the fifth. With a man on, Asdrubal Cabrera lifted a high fly ball to right field. Jose Bautista attempted to track the ball, but it kept sailing and landed just over the wall for Cabrera's first homer of the season.
That gave the Indians a comfortable 4-1 lead they would not relinquish. Dickey allowed all four runs -- three earned -- while striking out four over six innings of work.
It wasn't the way Dickey wanted to start his tenure in Toronto, but the final pitching line also looks worse than the outing actually was. Dickey managed to weather the storm early and had some of the Indians shaking their heads throughout the game.
"He has really good stuff, I'll say I got lucky there," Cabrera said of his homer. "I hit it good, but I thought it was too high."
Cabrera delivered a blow to the Blue Jays with his bat, but he also delivered one with his glove. Toronto had the bases loaded with nobody out in the third inning when designated hitter Adam Lind hit a scorching one-hopper to shortstop.
The 27-year-old Cabrera not only was able to pick the ball of the turf, but after falling onto his backside, he flipped the ball to second baseman Jason Kipnis for the start of a double play. One run came around to score, but the Blue Jays' rally was essentially put to rest and helped keep right-hander Justin Masterson in control on the mound.
While Dickey and Arencibia received most of the attention Tuesday night, it was the lack of execution with runners in scoring position that ultimately led to the Blue Jays' downfall in Game 1. With Masterson on the mound, Toronto went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position while stranding a total of five runners.
Masterson allowed just the one run on three hits while walking four and striking out five over six innings. Including the Lind at-bat, Masterson retired the final 11 batters he faced to help secure his first win of the season.
"I think the real big pitch was the bases loaded," said Arencibia, who went 1-for-4 with a double. "Lindy hits that ball square on the screws and it turned into a double play and I think he settled in after that.
"You have to tip your hat to him, he threw some turbo sinkers. He has a really good sinker, he was able to throw the four-seamer for strikes, flip in the slider to try and get people off the fastball. But he's a good pitcher for a reason and he did a good job."