CHICAGO – Humidity is generally good for R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball. Fog, apparently, is not.
To be fair, a mist over U.S. Cellular Field that at its best looked like the smoke from a dry-ice machine and at its worst formed a soupy film in the sky, made things miserable for everybody in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 10-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
Even Jose Bautista, who bashed two home runs and matched a career-high with five RBIs the day after getting ejected in the ninth inning, repeatedly threw his hands up in the air because he couldn’t track the ball, and drives into the air for both teams were often an adventure.
“A couple moments it was pretty hard to see,” said Bautista. “You looked up and that fog was pretty dense and similar in colour to the baseball. If they would have hit any balls up in the air at certain points, and they did, luckily none to me, I couldn’t see anything, and I’m sure they felt the same way.
“I don’t know if they’ve played through that before here, but it seems like they were fine with going ahead and playing in a game like that. If I would have been on the mound, and I had the point of view that I had from the outfield, there’s no way I would have wanted that game to continue on.”
Play was delayed for 70 minutes with two outs in the bottom of the third when the fog reduced visibility to the point the umpires were left with little choice.
“It came in pretty heavy, quickly,” said Dickey. “The first inning was great, I was warming up, it was a beautiful day and then out of the blue it rolled in on top of the lights and that was that. When they called the game I couldn’t even see Jose standing in the outfield.”
Dickey, coming off an 8.1-inning gem in San Francisco, had his troubles on both sides of the delay. He coughed up three runs in the second on Hector Gimenez’s sacrifice fly and Alejandro De Aza’s two-run single, plus an Adam Dunn solo shot in the third before play was stopped, and then a three-run blast by Dunn once it resumed.
“It’s weird,” said Dickey. “I’ve been playing for a long time and that’s the first game I’ve ever played in those conditions. It was challenging and I didn’t really have anything to go back and say, ‘OK, I’ve done this and this in these conditions.’ But I had some opportunities to make big pitches with two outs but unfortunately the knuckleball is tough, sometimes when it doesn’t break it can just sit there on a tee for guys like Adam Dunn to hit out of the park, and that’s exactly what he did.”
As a result, Dickey surrendered leads of 2-0 and 5-4 handed to him by Bautista’s blasts, struggling to record outs with his knuckler refusing to dance through the moist mess. He gave up seven runs on 10 hits with no walks and no strikeouts.
“It had some factor to it,” acting manager DeMarlo Hale said of the weather affecting Dickey’s performance. “I’m sure when you speak to him it wasn’t his best one, but it was a night where you look at your team, you look at your players just battle and grind and see what happens. We had some chances as the game went on and it was that kind of game. Whoever made the play or pitch or got the big hit. I was very happy with our effort but it was challenging. I’ve never been part of a fog out if that’s what you want to call it but this is Chicago and the weather can be tricky here for sure.”
WHERE THINGS STAND: The Blue Jays (27-36) lost their second straight after a three-game win streak, while the White Sox (28-34) earned a third straight victory before a home crowd announced at 18,126 but only a tiny fraction of which witnessed the final out.
Bench coach DeMarlo Hale served as manager with John Gibbons home in San Antonio to attend his son Troy’s high-school graduation.
BAUTISTA BASHES: Jose Bautista finished the night 2-for-4 with a walk and is now 5-for-8 with two walks in his last two games after a nine-game stretch in which he went 4-for-45 with two walks.
“I’ve been seeing the ball better in the last couple of days and I took advantage of some pitches that were right over the heart of the plate,” he said of Monday’s effort. “I was ready for fastballs over the plate and I got them and was able to take advantage and I didn’t foul them off. There were some other at-bats where I still got some pitches to hit and I didn’t square them up, and that’s the difference in the result.”
Despite the big night, Bautista isn’t ready to pronounce his slump over.
“It’s not something you can just come out of,” said Bautista. “I feel better, the results I can’t control. Sometimes you feel good at the plate and you still can’t get the results, it’s just a combination of feeling better and having the results of the last 2-3 days.
“It’s just executing, that’s it.”
CHANCES, CHANCES, CHANCES: The Blue Jays started the day 11th in the American League with a .248 batting average with runners in scoring position, and did nothing to help that by going 1-for-11.
Their only hit with a runner on came on Jose Bautista’s three-run shot in the fourth, and Colby Rasmus’s solo shot to open the fifth wrapped up their scoring.
Key opportunities went for naught in the third, when the first two runners reached but were stranded, the sixth, when the first two batters reached again, and the eighth, when they had runners on second and third with one out but again came up empty.
J.P. Arencibia was robbed of a game-tying single to end that threat, as his ground ball up the middle was snared by a sliding Alexei Ramirez at short and thrown out by a step at first.
KICKING IT AROUND: The Blue Jays gifted the White Sox a pair of runs in the eighth that put things out of reach, as Edwin Encarnacion threw a potential double play ball from Hector Gimenez into left field to put runners on the corners, and a run that made it 8-6 came in when Emilio Bonifacio whiffed on Alexei Ramirez’s chopper for a second error.
After an Alex Rios strikeout that should have ended the inning, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn added RBI singles that put the game away.
Encarnacion whipped his glove in frustration upon returning to the dugout.
STILL IN A FOG: Play resumed with two outs, the bases loaded and Alejandro De Aza at the plate, Gordon Beckham bailed R.A. Dickey out of a jam by taking off for third on a 2-2 count, and then being easily thrown out by Josh Thole trying to retreat to second.
FOGGY MEMORIES: The Blue Jays have had past adventures with fog, most notably on June 12, 1986 at Exhibition Stadium, when Kelly Gruber hit an inside-the-park homer on a ball Detroit Tigers centre-fielder Pat Sheridan didn’t see until it landed behind him.
Right-fielder Kirk Gibson ended up retrieving the ball, but by then Gruber had come around along with two runners before him. The game was called right after, giving the Blue Jays a 9-0 victory.
REHABBING: Blue Jays reliever Luis Perez pitched in his first rehabilitation game since ligament-replacement surgery last July, throwing two perfect innings in single-A Dunedin’s 4-3 loss to Palm Beach on Monday night.
The left-hander struck out one in his first action since leaving a game against the White Sox last July 8 with an elbow injury.
— MOVES: The Blue Jays designated infielder Adam LaRoche for assignment after the game to clear room for Chien-Ming Wang, whose $500,000 contract will take effect Tuesday when the right-hander takes the mound.