Despite getting the hook against his will with one out in the sixth inning, R.A. Dickey is now able to check off one box in his annual performance review. The knuckleballer topped the 200-inning mark for the third consecutive season, and his first with the Toronto Blue Jays.
However, Wednesday’s seven-hit, four-run performance against the Los Angeles Angels also symbolized a fitful season for the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. He squandered a pair of leads, including a 3-0 first-inning injection, and failed to push his win-loss record above the .500 mark for the first time this season. Dickey left with the game tied to keep his personal record at 12-12.
The Angels went on to win, 5-4, with a run off reliever Steve Delabar in the eighth inning, before a sleepy crowd of fewer than 18,000 at Rogers Centre.
On reaching 202-1/3 innings, Dickey said, “That’s nice, but the innings need to be quality innings and for a lot of the year they have been, and for some of the year they haven’t been. So there’s a lot for me to improve on but the one thing you can say is you’re able to take the ball every time it’s your turn. .... You won’t find probably five or six guys to top 200 innings in the AL East. But it’s only a silver lining in a year that for the most part has been a struggle.”
In the Angels second inning, Josh Hamilton drew a leadoff walk and Mark Trumbo launched a two-run home run into the centre-field second deck, his 33 of the season and to that point, sixth consecutive hit in the series. The night before, he had become the first Angel in history to get five hits (homer, three doubles, single) and score five runs in the same game.
That homer counted as the 32nd allowed by Dickey, the second-highest total in the majors. “It’s travelled here all year, that’s no secret,” Dickey said. He’s been experimenting with his repertoire of knuckleballs to counteract the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, and on Wednesday introduced a three-quarter arm delivery with a pitch to Mike Trout. “A sidearm knuckleball can be freaky,” he said.
Manager John Gibbons thought Dickey had thrown inconsistently after the first inning, and lifted him when two of the first three batters in the sixth inning got singles. Dickey acknowledged that he should have changed speeds more frequently.
“The manager’s decision is the manager’s decision,” Dickey said. “You’ve got to ask him about why he does and doesn’t leave guys in and take guys out. But I certainly felt I had more left in the tank, sure.”
C.J. Wilson (16-6) recorded the victory while Jays call-up Moises Sierra, playing for the injured Jose Bautista in right field, picked up three of the team's four hits -- two doubles and a triple. Sierra doubled home a run in the first inning, and gave the Jays a short-lived 4-3 lead in the fourth by hitting a triple and scoring when third baseman Andrew Romine failed to handle the relay throw from right field.
Back in the spring when the Las Vegas sports books saw the two teams as odds-on darlings and their fans dreamed about sizzling pennant races, this September series had the possibility to shape up as something special. The pitching matchup between Wilson and Dickey, with 27 wins between them entering the game, might have drawn a rabid capacity crowd.
Instead, the Angels and Jays, with the sixth- and ninth-highest payrolls in baseball respectively, were anchored by injury-marred pitching rotations. The Angels (4.30) and Jays (4.31) ranked 12 and 13 of 15 AL clubs for earned run average, entering Wednesday. For on-base-plus-slugging percentage against, they ranked 13 and 12. For walks and hits per inning pitched, 14 and 12.
Angels ace Jered Weaver (elbow) and left-hander Jason Vargas (blood clot) each missed almost two months of the season. Meantime, free agent signee Joe Blanton has gone 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA.
"One of the things that you deal with in baseball is the ups and downs of injuries,” Wilson said. “With Jared and Jason missing ... that's a big blow, and there's really no getting around that because we don't have a guy like Jose Fernandez to come up from Triple-A and all of a sudden just be awesome. ... I feel like with Weaver you know what you're going to get and with me you know what you're going to get too, so it's just a matter of seeing who else we can fit in the rotation [next year].”
The Jays lost Josh Johnson, J.A. Happ and Brandon Morrow from their Opening Day rotation for large chunks of the season, and Ricky Romero spent all but two starts at Triple-A Buffalo trying to rebuild his confidence. Only Dickey and Mark Buehrle made every scheduled start.
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