Returning to Texas for what could have been the final time in his career seemed to energize R.A. Dickey, as the veteran knuckleballer, a first-round selection of the Rangers way back in 1996, tossed eight innings of three-hit ball, striking out five to lead the Blue Jays to a 5-0 victory in Friday night’s series opener.
The 41-year-old righty had been winless since starting the season with a victory in Tampa Bay, alternating between not having good stuff and not getting much run support, but Friday night in Arlington, he was as locked in as he’d been in some time, adding just a lone walk to the three singles he allowed.
One of those hits came to the very first batter he faced, Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, who was promptly picked off first while getting a little greedy with his lead. Chad Girodo pitched a perfect ninth to finish things off.
It was a scoreless pitcher’s duel through five before Toronto got on the board in the sixth, manufacturing a run on a couple hits, an error and a ground ball out to go up 1-0 before adding another an inning later courtesy of a Sam Dyson wild pitch.
In the seventh is where the Blue Jays salted this one away, as Edwin Encarnacion sucked the air out of the crowd in the hot Texas night with a no doubt shot to left off Tom Wilhelmsen. After a Justin Smoak double, Troy Tulowitzki put this one completely out of reach with his seventh home run of the season, a line shot over the wall in left-center.
Jose Bautista was greeted by a chorus of boos every time he stepped into the batter’s box on Friday, the fans in Texas obviously still not happen about “The Bat Flip Heard ‘Round the World” last October. Bautista obliged by grounding into a double play in his first at-bat and going 1-for-5 on the evening, scoring Toronto’s first run.
First baseman Justin Smoak continued his strong play, smacking a pair of doubles and drawing two walks, raising his average to .318, nearly a hundred points higher than his career average. While Texas didn’t have many highlights on Friday, the Top of the Ninth was memorable for the Rangers as Matt Bush worked a 1-2-3 inning against the 2-3-4 hitters in the Toronto lineup in his major league debut.
The 30-year-old Bush was drafted first overall as a shortstop by the San Diego Padres in 2004, one spot ahead of Justin Verlander. Poor performance on the field and drug and alcohol problems off the field led to Bush bouncing around for a number of years, including being traded to the Blue Jays in 2009. In 2012, Bush was hit with myriad charges from a motor vehicle accident where he hit a 72-year-old man.
Bush ultimately agreed to a plea deal and spent 39 months in prison. He was signed by the Rangers two months after his release and called him up prior to Friday’s game following 12 appearances at Double-A.
Player of the Game: R.A. Dickey
Dickey has become a favoured whipping boy of frustrated Blue Jays fans who have watched as he’s struggled at times and been good, but not great for the most part while Noah Syndergaard lights up the National League for the New York Mets, but Friday’s performance was the kind of outing that reminds you why the Blue Jays rolled the dice on the former Cy Young Award winner.
A notoriously slow starter, Dickey struggled in April and May last year before settling in and being ultra consistent over the next four months, ultimately finishing 11-11 for the year. After going seven and taking a hard-luck loss last time out, Friday’s outing was a strong follow-up for Dickey and if this is the beginning of a hot stretch, it’s coming earlier than normal and is definitely welcomed.
On Deck: They’re back at it Saturday evening with Toronto sending Marco Estrada to the bump opposite Colby Lewis.