John Gibbons reached for his tablet within the cramped quarters of the visiting team’s manager’s office here at Comerica Park on a dreary Wednesday afternoon, intent on educating some of the reporters who dropped by for their daily pregame briefing.
Would the Toronto Blue Jays manager click open a bar graph illustrating the vast defensive improvement of his team this year? Or maybe reveal a pie chart illustrating the hitting tendencies of Melky Cabrera?
Neither, as it turned out.
In a few moments, the dulcet tones of George Strait, one of Gibbons’s favourite country artists, began to fill the air in his office as the Toronto manager nodded approvingly.
“Sometimes I feel like Jesse James trying to make a name,” warbled Strait before Gibbons clicked to another favourite track.
Gibbons was hoping the sweet music would also emanate from the mound that night with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey seeking an elusive consistent outing against the Detroit Tigers.
Dickey struggled – again – but the Blue Jays (36-24) still prevailed, fashioning a 8-2 victory to record their fourth straight win and second in as many nights against the suddenly hapless Tigers (31-24), who lost for the fourth straight time.
The Blue Jays will look for the sweep in the three-game set Thursday afternoon when they will send J.A. Happ to the mound to duel Detroit’s Justin Verlander.
It was Adam Lind who came through offensively for the Blue Jays, who were not able to put more than one runner on base at the same time in any one inning until the sixth off Detroit starter Rick Porcello.
That ended when Melky Cabrera doubled and Jose Bautista drew a walk.
Lind then stroked a two-run scoring double to the gap in right-centre that moved Toronto in front 3-2.
Lind went 2-for-5 at the plate with both his hits doubles to drive in three of the Toronto runs.
Dickey then did his best to give it all back in the bottom of the frame that began with a leadoff walk to Austin Jackson and a sharp single to centre off the bat of Alex Avila.
And when Nick Castellanos drew the second walk of the inning to load the bases with none out, Dickey was given the hook.
Lefty Aaron Loup entered the game and saved Dickey’s hide, striking out J.D. Martinez before getting Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler to pop up harmlessly in foul territory to kill Detroit’s hopes.
And for that, Dickey earned the win to improve to 6-4 on the year, allowing both of the Detroit runs off seven hits while walking four and striking out four over a mostly uneasy five-plus innings.
With a 5-3 victory in the first game of the three-game set against the American League Central-leading Tigers the night before, the Blue Jays maintained a 4.5-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.
The Toronto clubhouse is a harmonious spot with all the success, which was not something that Gibbons could always proclaim last season when the Blue Jays seriously underperformed.
A year ago at this time, the Blue Jays were 25-34 and in last place in their division, a distant 10.5 games out of first.
“Things are always better when you’re winning,” Gibbons said. “There were tensions at times last year. But as bad as we played and finished up, for the most part it was okay.
“It could have easily have gone the other way.”
It has been a frustrating season so far for Dickey, who has struggled in his consistency primarily utilizing a pitch that is so difficult to command.
In his last outing on Thursday against Kansas City, Dickey was roughed to the tune of five runs off 10 hits in five-plus innings during an 8-6 loss to the Royals.
Against the Tigers on Wednesday, Dickey was in tough to get his knuckleball across for strikes, allowing the Tiger hitters to lie in wait for the fastball.
The Blue Jays started first, with Cabrera belting his ninth home run of the season in the top of the first inning, a line drive that rapidly cleared the wall in left field for a 1-0 Toronto lead.
Detroit drew even in the bottom of the inning with Miguel Cabrera driving an 83-mile-an-hour first-pitch fastball from Dickey that split the middle of the plate into the seats in left field for his 11th home run of the season.
In the Detroit third it was Kinsler who was all over another Dickey heater and he also sent it into the left-field bleachers for a 2-1 Tigers advantage that would hold up until the sixth.
After Lind’s hit restored the Toronto lead, the Blue Jays sealed the win with three more in the eighth and two more in the ninth for good measure.