TORONTO — Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey usually breaks down his campaign into a series of mini-seasons consisting of a few games each.
His current stretch has him looking for answers.
Dickey was burned by two home runs Sunday afternoon as Toronto dropped a 6-3 decision to the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. He lasted six innings but did not record a strikeout for a second straight start.
His knuckleball wasn’t fluttering and dancing like it usually does. Mike Napoli turned on one flat knuckler for a three-run shot in Boston’s four-run first inning as the Red Sox avoided a three-game sweep.
Pablo Sandoval added a two-run shot in the fifth inning as Toronto (16-16) had its three-game winning streak come to an end. Dickey, who gave up six earned runs, seven hits and three walks, fell to 1-4 on the season.
"I’m frustrated, very frustrated," he said. "I’m tired of saying I’m one poor pitch from a good outing, every outing."
Dickey has gone at least six innings in all but one of his starts this season, but the knuckleball he counts on to get him out of jams has eluded him at times.
"This last three-game stretch has been a very odd one for me," he said. "Striking out four guys in three outings is very bizarre for me. So there’s certainly some things I need to take away from that and try to get better from or figure out why I’m not getting the swings and misses I normally get."
He plans to spend some time with pitching coach Pete Walker to see if improvements can be made. Dickey’s earned-run average rose from 4.38 to 5.00.
"The thing that I need to do is just get back to working and it’ll turn for me," he said.
There were a few bright spots on the day for the Blue Jays, who went 4-2 on the six-game homestand. Chris Colabello had three of Toronto’s eight hits and reliever Ryan Tepera pitched two shutout innings in his major-league debut.
"Everything is starting to fall into place," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the team’s recent play. "We’re .500 now and it would be nice to start a run here. Reel off a few in a row, it would do wonders. I’m very happy with the homestand."
Clay Buchholz worked 6 1/3 innings for the Red Sox (14-17) and Koji Uehara pitched the ninth inning for his sixth save.
Buchholz (2-4) walked three in the opening frame before settling into a nice rhythm. He was hampered by a sore ankle but played through it, allowing seven hits and three earned runs while striking out three.
It was Boston’s second victory in nine games.
"It’s always good to take home a win, for sure," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "For us to come out and score four runs in the first maybe let our guys relax a little bit."
Tepera, who was called up from triple-A Buffalo on Friday, had one strikeout over two perfect innings.
"I’m kind of at a loss for words actually," he said. "It was unbelievable. I’ve dreamed of this for a long time — ever since I was a little kid. It was awesome."
Announced attendance was 42,419 and the game took two hours 38 minutes to play.
Notes: Sandoval and Napoli both have three homers on the season. … For the 10th straight year, Major League Baseball dedicated all games on Mother’s Day to the fight against breast cancer. Many players wore pink wristbands or undershirts while some used pink bats. … Before the game, Toronto outfielder Michael Saunders was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left knee inflammation. Infielder Steve Tolleson’s contract was selected from triple-A Buffalo and right-hander Preston Guilmet was designated for assignment. … The Blue Jays will kick off a seven-game road trip Monday night against Baltimore. After the three-game series against the Orioles, the Blue Jays will play a four-game set at Houston. … Carl Willis served as pitching coach for the Red Sox. He succeeds Juan Nieves, who was let go last Thursday. Willis started the year as pitching coach for triple-A Columbus.