BALTIMORE – R.A. Dickey isn’t quite right and that also goes for the Toronto Blue Jays as a whole.
“I’m definitely not 100 per cent,” the ace knuckleballer said after allowing four runs over six innings in a 4-3 loss Tuesday night to the Baltimore Orioles. “I’m giving everything I can possibly give, but it feels like going to battle with a three-shooter instead of a six-shooter.
“You just don’t have what you normally have.”
Still fighting the tightness in his neck and upper back that initially flared up April 13 at Kansas City, Dickey struggled with his velocity and his command, adjusting his release point because he couldn’t put the usual zip on his pitches.
The damage against him all came in the type of death-by-papercut inning that has plagued the Blue Jays of late, a four-run second that included what Dickey (2-3) described as a "ball down the line, an excuse me swing to left, a ball just out of the reach of (Munenori) Kawasaki, there were just a lot of plays that were a matter of inches."
"That second inning was a very quirky inning, not a lot of hard contact, it was a night where I just got baseballed," Dickey added. "I don't feel like I pitched poorly, and I certainly gave everything that I could."
This outing was a far cry from his last outing against the Chicago White Sox in Toronto, when he allowed just two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts before the spasms forced him from the game. He described the progressive tightness in both starts as similar, and said at this point he's not considering missing his next start.
"You certainly contemplate how can you eradicate what's going on back there, but I get paid to be on the field and I take a lot of pride in that," he said. "I feel like my team needs me and if I can be out there I'm going to be out there. …
"It's trying to get ahead of the condition here and hopefully next time out, we're going to try some different treatments and see if they work."
The second, which featured an RBI single by Matt Weiters, a sacrifice fly by Chris Davis and two-run single off a diving Kawasaki's glove by Manny Macahado staked the Orioles to a 4-0 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The still cool Blue Jays lineup did all its damage in the sixth when Adam Lind and Jose Bautista worked two-out walks before Edwin Encarnacion blasted his third home run of the season to make it a one-run game.
Melky Cabrera followed with a triple but Miguel Gonzalez (2-1) was lucky to strand him when Brett Lawrie's hard liner to left was chased down by Nate McClouth.
The Blue Jays have scored three runs or fewer in eight of their last 11 games.
Dickey threw 118 pitches over his six innings, allowing six hits while walking five. He retired eight straight between the second and fifth innings in his best stretch, giving his team a chance to climb back into it after falling behind early.
"Moral victories don't count in the win column," Dickey said. "We've got to fix what's going on here."
WHERE THINGS STAND: The Blue Jays (8-13) fell five games below .500 for the first time this season with their sixth loss in eight outings before 13,272 at Camden Yards. The Orioles (12-8), on the other hand, won for the sixth time in eight contests.
"The guys are battling right now, it's just not happening," manager John Gibbons said. "But they're competing, that's all we can ask for."
Brandon Morrow faces Josh Stinson in Wednesday's series finale.
LINEUP JUGGLE: Looking to jump-start his lineup, manager John Gibbons moved Adam Lind up into the two-hole and slid Melky Cabrera down into the five spot. While Gibbons said, "there's nothing scientific about it, just a new look," the switch seemed designed to get Lind's recent on-base prowess up high and Cabrera's hits into a production area.
Lind finished 1-for-2 with a walk and run scored while Cabrera was 1-for-4 with a triple.
The last time Lind batted second was May 15, 2007, also against the Orioles, when he went 0-for-4. On Monday he had runs of five straight walks and nine consecutive plate appearances reaching base come to an end.
"I just haven't been too stubborn this year and I've made adjustments with what pitchers have done," Lind said. "Sitting on the bench for those four days in a row, you get caught up in the moment when you're playing and you don't have time to sit back. As odd as that may sound with all of the down time you don't have time to sit back and realize what pitchers are trying to do."
THE BATS: A key moment in the game came in the third when Colby Rasmus led off with a double, didn't advance on Maicer Izturis' grounder to first base and then misread Henry Blanco's floating single to right-centre, moving only to third base.
While Rasmus took the cautious option - not a bad thing when you remember Farrell-ball last year - he was stranded when Munenori Kawasaki hit into a double play.
"(Chris) Davis is playing in a little bit (at first) base and the read I think he got was that it was hit so hard, he didn't know if he was going to come across or not," Gibbons said. "Then (Blanco) dunked the ball in and he kind of hesitated on that, it turned out the double play was big, that can be a dicey play sometimes. … I think the thinking was down by four, don't want to run into an out there."
The Blue Jays also left runners on the corners in the eighth when Cabrera struck out looking.
THE ARMS: Brett Cecil and Esmil Rogers each made their 10th appearances of the season, while Cecil went more than inning for the sixth time.
Steve Delabar has also pitched in 10 games, five of them going more than an inning, while Rogers has thrown an inning-plus four times. The workload division is a product both of design and necessity.
"You hate to get it where everybody is a one-inning guy, in close ball-games you've gone through everybody and if it turns out you go to extra innings, you're strapped," Gibbons said. "Part of it too has been that we've been using guys a lot and some guys aren't available on certain nights so you have to stretch out other guys. We wouldn't do it if we didn't think they could be effective doing that."