R.A. Dickey got the all-important “W” attached to his name.
But on this night the veteran knuckleball hurler knew full well that it was Aaron Loup who should be receiving most of the accolades in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 8-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
“What he did, he should get the win,” Dickey graciously allowed.
Dickey would be getting no arguments about that from within the Blue Jays clubhouse after Loup came into the game in the sixth inning and made like Houdini to help Toronto escape with a fourth consecutive victory.
Dickey was just so-so through the five-plus innings he worked against the Tigers, yet there he was clinging to a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning at Comerica Park.
A single to Alex Avila sandwiched around two walks loaded the bases with none out for the American League Central-leading Tigers before Toronto manager John Gibbons made the pitching change.
With the 32,000-plus fans at Comerica rightly anticipating a game-changing moment, that is exactly what they witnessed.
Only it was in favour of the Blue Jays, who continue to lead a charmed existence since bulling their way to the top of the A.L. East standings.
Loup earned a key strikeout against J.D. Martinez, the first batter he faced.
Rajai Davis then popped out to catcher Jose Thole behind the plate and Ian Kinsler did the same down the right side to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and suddenly the Blue Jays had a second life.
They would go on to pile on three more runs in the eighth inning and two more in the ninth to turn what had been a tight game into a laugher, setting themselves up for the potential of a sweep with a win Thursday afternoon in the series finale.
“It was one of those games where I felt very fortunate to get out of it through five innings with that lineup, just giving up two runs,” said Dickey, whose record improved to 6-4 with win.
“It took Loup’s magic act to get that. We were fortunate tonight. I almost blew it for all of us.”
For the most part this season, Loup has been lights out working in tight situations. He worked two innings against the Tigers and did not allow a hit, his earned run average on the season down to 2.43.
In 28 appearances this season, Loup has only allowed 16.1 per cent of inherited runners to score.
“It’s kind of one of those situations where you’re almost thinking you’re bound to give up at least one, possibly two, but you try to limit the damage as much as possible,” Loup said. “Tonight I guess was one of those lucky nights where you kind of pull a rabbit out of your hat, that’s what I called it.
“Usually you don’t get out of situations like that.”
Dickey said physically he came into the game feeling sub-par – “a tough body day” to use his own words.
He had a tough time locating his knuckleball that kept him and the Blue Jays on the edge for most of his start.
Dickey would surrender both the Detroit runs off seven hits, including home run balls to Miguel Cabrera and Kinsler, while walking four.
“I felt like a tightrope the whole game,” he said. “But I have some really good teammates.”
They would include Adam Lind, whose RBI double in the top of the sixth off Rick Porcello scored two Toronto runs and provided the Blue Jays with their one-run cushion.
Lind, who drove in three of the Toronto runs, is now batting .412 over his last 13 games.
The only dark cloud on the horizon for the Blue Jays was the health of Encarnacion, their slugging first baseman.
Encarnacion came out of the game in the bottom of the ninth with a stiff lower back and Gibbons said his status for Thursday’s game is uncertain.
Encarnacion said his back has been bothering him for the last couple of games and that “it was getting tighter and tighter, inning by inning. Today was the worst day.”
Encarnacion is hopeful it is nothing serious but added he might need a day off on Thursday.