R.A. Dickey achieved a personal milestone Wednesday, reaching the 200-inning plateau for the third consecutive season.
But he struggled on the mound, allowing four earned runs to the Los Angeles Angels, who beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 in front of 17,994 at Rogers Centre.
“There’s a lot for me to improve on, but the one thing you can say is that you were able to take the ball every time when it was your turn,” Dickey said following the game. “That dependability I think is worth something, that durability.”
Even so, the season has been a challenge for the 38-year-old.
"It's only a silver lining to a year that for the most part has been a struggle," he said. "But there is some optimism there."
The Blue Jays built an early 3-0 lead only to see the Angels come back with runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings. MVP candidate Mike Trout then walked and scored on a sacrifice fly in the eighth to score the winning run for Los Angeles.
Dickey, who prides himself on keeping his team in the game, completed just 5.1 innings Wednesday, allowing seven hits, two walks and four earned runs while striking out two. It marked the first time since June 15 that the knuckleballer exited the game before pitching 6.0 innings.
Blue Jays right fielder Moises Sierra hit two doubles and a triple for the Blue Jays, collecting three hits in a game for the third time this season.
"He's a talented guy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's on a nice little roll right now. As far as talent goes, this guy's got as much as anybody."
His second base hit came in the fourth inning, when he tripled to right field and scored on the same play after Los Angeles infielder Andrew Romine mishandled the ball on the play at third.
"I feel good," Sierra said. "A couple good swings. I concentrated on my swing and I feel good."
Angels starter C.J. Wilson completed seven innings, allowing four hits, four walks and three earned runs while striking out six. With the exception of Sierra, the left-hander held the Blue Jays lineup in check on his way to his 16th win of the season.
"He looked good all night, really," Gibbons said. "He can carve you up a little bit."
"He keeps you off-balance. He's sneaky, but they brought him over there for a reason; he's a pretty good pitcher."
The Blue Jays, now 67-78, drew fewer than 18,000 fans for the first time since May 21, when they played the Tampa Bay Rays.
THE BATS: Aside from Sierra, the Blue Jays were quiet on offence, collecting just one hit and four walks. After the game, Sierra said he was pleased to see his work in the batting cage pay off.
"I tried to make a good swing and tried not to do too much," he said. "Tried to see the ball and hit it."
Outfielder Rajai Davis stole two bases after drawing a walk, bringing his season total to 42.
THE ARMS: Dickey debuted a variation on his trademark pitch Wednesday, lowering his arm slot while facing Trout in the top of the fifth inning. He tried throwing across his body sidearm to mix things up before returning to his usual delivery.
"A sidearm knuckleball can be freaky," he explained. "If you've got that it's just another bullet in your gun."
Dickey has been working on the pitch in side sessions with Pete Walker, the Blue Jays' pitching coach.
"It's something you can mix in there against the better hitters in particular just to give them a different look, and hopefully they will be bewildered," he said.
Dickey, the defending National League Cy Young winner, completed 200-plus innings with the New York Mets in 2011 and 2012. He said he could have kept pitching for more than 5.1 innings Wednesday.
"I certainly felt like I had more left in the tank, for sure," he said.
Dickey leads the Blue Jays in innings pitched, but it doesn't look as though he'll be the only Toronto pitcher to reach the 200-inning plateau. Mark Buehrle has completed 189.1 innings with two-plus weeks remaining in the season. Dickey spoke highly of Buehrle, who's on the cusp of a 13th consecutive season of 200-plus innings.
Aaron Loup, Dustin McGowan, Steve Delabar and Darren Oliver pitched in relief of Dickey Wednesday.
WHERE THINGS STAND: J.A. Happ faces fellow left-hander Jason Vargas in the series finale Thursday.
Once the 69-76 Angels leave Toronto, the Blue Jays will prepare to play 15 of their final 16 games against their AL East rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
NOTES: First baseman Edwin Encarnacion sat again due to wrist soreness and may not return to the field in 2013 ... Centre fielder Colby Rasmus could return to the lineup by the weekend ... Third baseman Brett Lawrie and second baseman Ryan Goins continue to impress on defence ... Oliver pitched for the first time since Sept. 3 ... Gibbons repeated that he feels comfortable relying on infielder Munenori Kawasaki as a pinch hitter.