In each of his last three starts, including Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians, the Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer has felt strong and in command of his outings, yet he failed to get through the seventh inning in any of them.
Worse is that all three times he left a mess behind – including a bases-loaded, none-out jam against Cleveland in which all three runners scored to erode a 5-1 lead – and that’s why he wasn’t in a celebratory mood after improving to 4-3 this season.
“I get a good 18 hours to beat myself up, and then it’s time to turn the page and enjoy that we won the game,” he says. “But I do have an expectation of myself that’s better that what I’m producing. And my hope is that I will be able to get over that hump and get into the seventh and eighth innings routinely with the stuff that I’ve had to offer the last two and three games, since Pittsburgh, really, I’ve felt very good. That’s the hope but baseball is about managing regret and trying to hold both what you do poorly and what you do well, and move on.”
On May 3 in Pittsburgh, Dickey took a 6-2 lead into the seventh but was removed after a leadoff double and then the floodgates opened in what ended up as an 8-6 loss. Five days later, he took a 7-2 edge into the seventh against the Philadelphia Phillies but was pulled after a one-out double. Things settled there in what ended as an 8-6 win.
Against Cleveland, Dickey needed Aaron Loup to escape trouble in the seventh and then Melky Cabrera bailed out Brett Cecil in the eighth by throwing out Carlos Santana at home to end the frame with the Blue Jays still leading.
“Oh man, that was just heroic, is what that was,” Dickey says. “It saved the game.”
But what’s irksome to him is that heroics were needed at all.
“I am not making it easy on myself or my team in those later innings,” he says. “Quite frankly, I feel a little bit embarrassed that I haven’t been able to get through the seventh inning with some of the stuff that I’ve had. I’m not accustomed to having to bow out after six innings. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing my job, especially when I have a knuckleball like I did tonight, I felt really good with it, and strong, my velocities were good. That being said, I have to take more positives out of tonight’s outing.”
A couple of years ago the Blue Jays had catchers J.P. Arencibia, Travis d’Arnaud, A.J. Jimenez and Yan Gomes in their organization at the same time. If you were to rank them back then, Gomes would have been last on the list, but he might be tops in some eyes right now. I had an interesting conversation with GM Alex Anthopoulos about it Tuesday, as well as a chat with Gomes, who’s emerged as a cornerstone catcher for the Indians.
The Blue Jays bought themselves time to play out Colby Rasmus’ hamstring tightness by calling up Kevin Pillar, who vows to make this stint in the big-leagues better than his last one.
Casey Janssen closed out Tuesday’s win for the Blue Jays in his usual, efficient manner, and has now converted 17 straight save opportunities and 35 of his last 37 dating back to last season.
That’s kinda good.
“When he started closing, a couple of years ago, he’s been almost perfect,” says manager John Gibbons. “He was kind of forced into that role a couple of years ago when (Sergio) Santos went down and he’s run with it. I mean, he’s reliable. It’s a different style of closer, where he’s a real command guy but he can pick that plate apart. Early on in the season, we started out pretty good coming out of the ‘pen closing some games and then we hit a rough spot. So it’s definitely good to have him back. You kind of just eliminate that inning, thinking he’s got the ninth. …
“It’s like a security blanket and you just kind of work back from there.”
R.A. Dickey and Aaron Loup expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s kind of like you get to take a breath because he’s so trustworthy out there,” says Dickey. “You know he’s going to attack the strike zone, works quickly. He’s always down and he just lets everybody slide out. That’s what you saw tonight.”
Adds Loup: “It’s kind of like a comfort zone. Having him back in the bullpen, that just sets everybody up in the roles they should be in, makes it a little more comfortable for everybody else, and you know just about every time you hand him the ball he’s going to get the job done.”