Dickey Turns In Another Strong Performance
It appears Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey has put his early-season struggles behind him.
Dickey turned in his third consecutive quality start, throwing a season-high eight innings and 120 pitches to guide the Blue Jays to a 7-5 win over the Rays at Rogers Centre on Monday.
Over his last three starts, Dickey has logged 20 innings, allowing 15 hits, eight runs -- six earned -- while walking 11 and striking out 20. That's good for a 2.70 ERA compared to the mark of 5.36 he had over his first seven starts of the season. He's still issuing too many free passes, but the knuckleball -- even for Dickey -- is a tough pitch to control. It's also a "feel pitch" and, further, Dickey was dealing with a neck and back injury that required an MRI not that long ago.
The walks, however, haven't hurt him in recent outings and he has the ability to limit the potential damage that comes with putting runners on with his swing-and-miss stuff.
Below is Dickey's second strikeout against the Rays, which came with one out in the fifth inning on a foul tip. Victim: Matt Joyce.
The knuckleballer had a season-high 15 swinging strikes against Tampa, one start after punching out 10 batters -- his most this year. Despite throwing first-pitch strikes to only 14 of the 32 batters he faced Monday, Dickey still threw 72 of his 120 pitches for strikes (60 percent). It's worth noting that Dickey is throwing first-pitch strikes at a career-low mark.
It was obvious early that the knuckleball was going to be dancing all day, as catcher Henry Blanco dropped two of the first three that Dickey threw to leadoff man Desmond Jennings, who swung through two of them during his five-pitch at-bat, resulting in a strikeout. And while Dickey looked good from the start, he got even stronger as the game went on and didn't allow a single hit past the fourth inning and recorded 13 outs on the ground -- a season high.
Dickey has looked good today....best knuckler I've seen in the 4 starts of his I've watched— jasoncollette (@jasoncollette) May 20, 2013
To Jason's point, this was definitely one of Dickey's best starts of the season. The one that jumps out at me as his sharpest was his abbreviated outing against the White Sox, in which he fanned seven over six scoreless innings before leaving with neck and back tightness.
Another good sign: some of the best knucklers Dickey threw Monday came in his final inning of work.
Ben Zobrist attempted to lay down a bunt with one out in the eighth, but really had no chance with the way this thing was moving.
Zobrist swung through the next pitch before flying out to center field.
Up next was Evan Longoria, who singled and doubled off Dickey his first two at-bats. Dickey, however, got the best of him in a nine-pitch battle the final time they faced each other.
Here was a nice one to Longoria early in the count.
Dickey then got him swinging a few pitches later for his fifth and final strikeout of the day.
Not only did Dickey lead the Blue Jays to a win by going eight innings, he also allowed the bullpen to rest, with the exception of Casey Janssen, who worked the ninth.
After getting rained out Sunday, the entire group, minus Janssen, has had two full days off to recover -- something that doesn't happen too often in a baseball season.