Jays drop back to .500
TORONTO—Toronto ace R.A. Dickey felt like he had complete-game potential at the start of last night’s game against Houston.
He was in decent form over the first four innings before the Astros turned on a few floating knuckleballers and built a lead that was too much for the Blue Jays to overcome.
“It’s a real surprise when I have a knuckleball like that and have the outcome that we had,” Dickey noted.
Jason Castro added a solo shot in the eighth inning off reliever Esmil Rogers to help send Toronto (5-5) back to the .500 mark.
Colby Rasmus hit a solo homer for the Jays, who scratched out three runs in the bottom of the ninth to make a game of it.
“We’re disappointed but they outplayed us,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons.
Dickey (1-2) allowed five earned runs, three walks, and six hits over seven innings.
He said he was pleased with the speed and action on his knuckleball.
“It was moving so much, I was throwing it hard, it felt great out of my hand,” Dickey recalled.
“And then we just had a couple of hiccups and it happened really quickly.”
Starter Dallas Keuchel (1-1), meanwhile, was sharp for Houston (4-6). He went seven innings, allowing five hits and just one earned run.
“He really showed it tonight against a really good hitting lineup,” said Astros’ manager Bo Porter.
“He was outstanding.”
Keuchel now has gone at least seven innings in each of his three career starts against Toronto.
“Those guys that have got a little finesse, a little command, they have a tendency to give us problems,” Gibbons noted.
Toronto brought the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth but Maicer Izturis hit a comebacker to Anthony Bass, who recorded the one out for his first save.
Lead-off man Melky Cabrera doubled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, but was left stranded when Jose Bautista popped up and Edwin Encarnacion grounded out.
Castro led off the fourth inning with a sharp single to centrefield for the Astros’ first hit of the game. He was forced out at second base when Jose Altuve hit into a fielder’s choice.
Dickey then caught Altuve leaning towards second base on a lead-off and picked him off for the second out before fanning Chris Carter.
Marc Krauss led off the fifth with a double off the wall in right-centrefield and moved to third when Matt Dominguez grounded out to first base.
Grossman then turned on a 3-0 pitch for his first homer of the season.
Dominguez made a stellar defensive play in the fifth inning to rob Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C. of a sure hit.
The Houston third baseman dove to his left and threw from his knees to get the speedy Canadian by a half-step.
Rasmus followed with a solo homer that hit the facing of the second level in right-centre. It was his first home run of the season.
Gibbons challenged a call later in the frame when Cabrera was called out at first base.
Cabrera stumbled out of the batter’s box but Dominguez bobbled the ball at third base before recovering to fire a throw that was barely in time at first.
The umpires reviewed the play and the original call stood to end the inning.
In the seventh, Dominguez hit a one-out double and Grossman walked.
After a visit to the mound by pitching coach Pete Walker, Villar crushed Dickey’s first pitch to deep centre for his second homer of the season.
Astros’ reliever Josh Fields gave up two runs in the ninth when pinch-hitter Adam Lind doubled to the gap in left-centre.
Lind later scored when Bass made a throwing error to first.
Houston is expected to be one of the lesser lights in the American League West this season. But the Astros have shown some pop early on with 14 homers in their first 10 games.
“This game, it can be cruel,” Dickey said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the N.Y. Yankees or the Houston Astros,” he reasoned.
“There’s big-league ball players on the other side of that diamond and if you leave a ball over the middle of the plate, they’re going to hit it.
“It doesn’t matter who they are.”
Elsewhere in the AL, Oakland beat Minnesota 6-1, New York downed Boston 4-1, and Chicago upended Cleveland 7-3.