The Cy Young-winning R.A. Dickey that has eluded the Toronto Blue Jays mound all season long finally made his first appearance.
Yes, the knuckleballer had made nine starts for the bluebirds prior to Monday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Rays, but they might as well have all been warmups compared to this one.
The ironic thing is that Dickey might not even be the biggest story; that might belong to Edwin Encarnacion, whose key two-run double in the seventh put the Jays ahead by three, or closer Casey Janssen‘s struggles in his first game since
the dawn of time May 11.
Still, it’s hard to ignore eight innings of two-ER ball (three total) on just four hits and four walks, to go along with five strikeouts. At 120 pitches, this was the longest that Dickey had gone in a start in 2013, and even though you’d like to see better command of his knuckler (somewhat of an oxymoron, really), he was in control as much he’d been at any point this season.
Despite being in a close game for much of the day, the 38-year-old maintained his composure, something that was perhaps best illustrated by his nine-pitch full-count strikeout of Evan Longoria — who’d gotten to him in his first two at-bats — with a man on in the eighth inning.
Moments like that were ones that could have uncharacteristically snowballed for the veteran earlier on in the season, but that hasn’t been the case since his inauspicious seven-run outing at the start of May. Monday’s outing now gives Dickey three straight quality starts, and he now owns a 2.70/1.30 ERA/WHIP over his last 20 innings with an even 9.00 K/9.
It might not look like a whole lot considering the uneven first month-plus that the Blue Jays’ ace had, but for a team that’s relatively low on optimism, having their best pitcher getting a win against a divisional opponent at home is an important step to take, especially when said opponent usually dominates these outings.
Are the last three starts enough of a sign that Dickey has turned the corner? Considering that the Blue Jays are still 9.5 games back in the AL East, they’re pretty much going to need it to be.
The team’s offense is finally coming around now (ninth-ranked over the last week coming into Monday with 35 runs); if the team’s biggest acquisition in the offseason can lead the staff by example … well, let’s just take it one game at a time, I suppose.