At long last, R.A. Dickey rose to the occasion and showed off the stellar form he exhibited for most of second half last year, turning in 8 dominant, shutout innings on Friday night in Texas. While he had been better in his first couple starts in May after a disappointing April, Dickey rolled tonight facing just three over the minimum while allowing just 3 hits and striking out 6 against just 1 walk.
And even that pitching line understates how good he was, as most of the game was a clinic in generating weak contact. He did start a little slow, allowing a leadoff single in the second (quickly erased with a pickoff) and two baserunners with two outs in the 2nd inning. However, he got out of his only jam of the evening with a flyout and was lights out the rest of the way, setting down 19 of the last 20 from that point including the last 14 straight. He struck out two batters in each of his last two innings, and only having thrown 111 pitches stopped him from going for the complete game.
Meanwhile, the bats did little for the first five innings, managing five baserunners but not being able to string them together or get a clutch two out hit to break the 0-0 stalemate. And so it looked like the Jays might be on the verge of squandering yet another strong pitching performance, until they got some help from Texas to put them on the scoreboard.
With one out in the 6th inning, Jose Bautista lined a single the other way. Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground ball to shortstop that was a potential double play ball, but Elvis Andrus reprised his role from ALCS Game 5 and booted it so both runners were safe. Justin Smoak worked the count full and drew walk on a pitch just below the zone. That brought Troy Tulowitzki to the plate, who didn't exactly execute grounding weakly to second, but so slowly it wasn't possible to turn a double play, thereby plating the first run.
The second run was similarly scratched out. Darwin Barney singled leading off the 7th, was sacrificed to second by Josh Thole and advanced to third with two out on a Kevin Pillar ground out. That left Sam Dyson facing Josh Donaldson, and he lost control of a fastball that ran way up and in, forcing Donaldson to bail out. But it also eluded the catcher, allowing Barney to score an insurance on a wild pitch and it make 2-0.
The Blue Jays landed the knockout blows in the 8th off Tom Wilhelmsen. With one out, Encarncion launched a fastball to left field for a solo home run. Justin Smoak - who already had a
single double and two walks - drilled another double, and then Tulo got in on the fun as well, hitting a laser beam to right-centre over the wall.
For Texas, Matt Bush made his major league debut in a clean 9th against the heart of the Jays order, which at least gave the announcers something to talk about (did you know he was involved in some "accidents"?). Chad Girodo countered with a clean inning of his own, three ground balls.
Jays of the Day: Dickey (+0.482), Smoak (+0.150).
Suckage: None. Donaldson had the low number at -0.090 going 0/5.
Tomorrow, Marco Estrada faces Colby Lewis as the Blue Jays look at clinch the series at 8:05 eastern.