TORONTO — R.A. Dickey said the Toronto Blue Jays’ latest loss was all on him.
“The loss can be solely hung around my neck for sure,” the right-handed knuckleball pitcher said after Toronto fell 6-5 to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday. “If I pitch better we win the game.”
J.J. Hardy and Danny Valencia each drove in two runs and Freddy Garcia (1-2) pitched five innings for the Orioles before a crowd of 35,915 at Rogers Centre.
Garcia allowed nine hits, including a home run by Emilio Bonifacio, and limited Toronto to three runs (two earned) to gain his first win in five starts this season.
It was the second win in a row for the Orioles (27-22) over the Blue Jays (20-29) and assured them of at least a split in the four-game series that ends Sunday.
Hardy hit a two-run single in the first, Valencia hit a two-run homer in the third and Adam Jones hit a solo homer in the seventh against Dickey (4-6) who allowed nine hits and six runs in 6 2/3 innings.
The Blue Jays trailed 3-1 after one inning and 5-2 after three.
“Early in the game cost him,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “You look at some of the games that he’s struggled, they put some runs up on the board early and then he finds his groove and it was the same way today.
“Of course, he gave up the solo home run late but, other than that, in the middle innings he was very good. We made a run at it, we just came up short.”
Dickey has yet to find the form that won him the National League Cy Young Award in 2012 when he was with the New York Mets. Injuries, including back spasms, have hampered him and he cannot throw his knuckleball as hard as he did last year.
“I’m kind of just punching the clock right now,” he said.
“I’m searching for it. I certainly haven’t felt like I did last year. There are some concrete reasons and there some reasons that I can iron out in the bullpen between starts.”
The roof was open on a sunny but chilly afternoon.
“It was not ideal conditions but it was okay,” Dickey said. “I’ve pitched just fine in conditions similar to today so that’s certainly not an excuse.”
Jose Bautista and Adam Lind each had three hits for the Blue Jays, who had 13 hits on the day and have 30 hits over their past two games, both losses.
“At least we put ourselves in that position to almost go ahead and get the lead but they had a pretty good pitcher out there,” Lind said. “Everybody one through nine did their job today for the most part. I guess we could have had a couple of more hits with runners in scoring position but that’s all you can ask is to have the guys on base.”
Jim Johnson picked up his 15th save of the season, ending a string of three successive blown save opportunities.
“Jimmy was going to pitch today,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He had three days off. Once again Jim Johnson closing a one-run lead on the road in the American League East against a team as hot as anybody. That’s pretty impressive.”
The Orioles scored three runs in the first inning. After a walk to Nick Markakis, Chris Davis doubled in a run with two out and Hardy singled in a pair.
“If I could take the Markakis at-bat away in the first we probably win the game, it was a walk a four-pitch walk,” Dickey said. “It was just tough to get the feel early. I grew into it a little but by that time we had already given up three runs.”
The Blue Jays answered with one run in their half of the first. Melky Cabrera and Bautista singled, Edwin Encarnacion hit into a double play and Lind singled in a run.
Bonifacio hit his second homer of the season with one out in the second to cut Baltimore’s lead to 3-2.
But Valencia restored the three-run lead in the third when his second homer of the series and of the season followed. Hardy’s two-out double.
Cabrera’s wall-crashing catch on Jones’ deep drive to left field ended the top of the fourth and kept the Blue Jays within three runs.
Garcia’s throwing error on a trickler along the first-base line by Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., gave the Blue Jays an unearned run in the fifth. It scored Bautista who singled with one out and took third on Lind’s two-out single.
Jones sent Dickey from the game with his ninth homer of the season, a long drive to left with two out in the seventh.
The Blue Jays scored twice in the eighth after Lawrie led off with a double against reliever Steve Johnson, pinch hitter Maicer Izturis walked with two out and Munenori Kawasaki singled in a run. Cabrera greeted reliever Darren O’Day with a single to cut the lead to 6-5. But Jim Johnson closed the game with a 1-2-3 ninth.
“We’ve got a team that can drive the ball out of the park,” Jones said. “We score in a lot of unique ways.”
Notes: The Blue Jays called up right-hander Thad Weber from triple-A Buffalo and left-hander Sean Nolin was returned to double-A New Hampshire on option after allowing six runs in 1 1/3 innings on Friday in his major-league debut, a 10-6 loss …Weber who was claimed off waivers from San Diego on May 19 will work out of the bullpen but could be a candidate to start next Wednesday. ….Right-hander Josh Johnson (triceps strain) threw 68 pitches with 38 strikes over four innings (one hit, one walk, no runs, three strikeouts), for Buffalo on Saturday, his second outing on medical rehabilitation assignment. He could have one more before he rejoins Toronto. ….Outfielder Rajai Davis (oblique strain) is hitting off a tee and is close to playing. … The Orioles put right-handed reliever Pedro Strop (lower back strain) on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and recalled right-hander Steve Johnson from triple-A Norfolk and he replaced Garcia in the sixth inning on Saturday. … Markakis stretched his hit streak to 10 games with a single in the fourth. …Right-hander Chad Jenkins (1-0, 3.60 earned-run average) will start for Toronto against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (2-2, 4.25 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale.