R.A. Dickey is known for his smarts on the mound since he’s been able to handle big-league hitters with his knuckleball.
Chris Young will be the first of two Ivy League products to start a playoff game Tuesday, and the Princeton graduate has shared many intellectual discussions with Dickey about baseball.
These former teammates will oppose each other at the Rogers Centre, with Dickey seeking to help the Toronto Blue Jays pull even with Young’s Kansas City Royals in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series.
These right-handers were teammates with Texas in 2003-04 and with the New York Mets in 2011-12. They were known for their intelligence and reading habits, though Dickey stopped short of saying who read more.
"We had some great conversations when we were together in New York," Dickey said. "I enjoyed being around him. I enjoyed talking to him. He’s got a great mind."
Young will become the 10th pitcher in baseball history to go at least nine seasons between playoff starts. Dennis Martinez (16 years) and Bret Saberhagen (10) were the most recent to do so, appearing in the 1995 postseason.
Young, who beat St. Louis with 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 2006 division series outing with San Diego, won’t be the only Ivy League pitcher on the playoff stage Tuesday since the Chicago Cubs will start Dartmouth product Kyle Hendricks in Game 3 of the NLCS.
The Royals starter said that he enjoyed spending time with Dickey because of their similar intellectual approach to the game.
"I think we both appreciate our education and the intellectual aspects of the game of baseball," Young said. "It’s a great game, just everything that – the thinking man’s game, everything that you have to process in a short period of time."
Dickey is 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in his last four starts against the Royals, pitching seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball against them in a 5-2 victory Aug. 2. Ben Zobrist is a .154 hitter against him in 39 at-bats and Alex Rios is at .208 in 24 at-bats as the Kansas City hitters who have faced him the most.
Dickey went 6-0 with a 1.94 ERA in eight home starts since the All-Star break. His postseason debut was an 8-4 Game 4 division series victory at Texas last Monday in which he gave up one run in 4 2/3 innings.
Young hasn’t pitched since he struck out seven in four innings of relief Oct. 8 in the Royals’ division series opener against Houston. He is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts versus Toronto over the last two seasons.
Josh Donaldson is 1 for 16 against him, Jose Bautista is 3 for 16 and Troy Tulowitzki is 2 for 11. Still, Young is wary of the challenge of facing baseball’s highest-scoring team.
"It’s a great lineup," Young said. "I’ve got my work cut out for me. But I’m excited for the challenge and the opportunity and it will be a great environment."
Toronto avoided moving to the brink of elimination by flexing its muscles in Monday’s 11-8 victory. Donaldson, Tulowitzki and Ryan Goins all homered as the Blue Jays knocked out Royals starter Johnny Cueto in the third inning and broke out after totaling three runs in the first two games.
"That’s really what we’re all about," manager John Gibbons said. "We desperately needed that breakout."
Tulowitzki, who is playing with a sore shoulder, was later ejected for arguing balls and strikes before the top of the eighth.
The Royals saw win streaks of four straight overall and nine in a row in LCS play end. Their solid production at the plate continued, as Alcides Escobar went 4 for 5, Zobrist doubled three times and Kendrys Morales went 3 for 4 with a two-run homer.
Kansas City has scored 33 runs over its last 35 innings at the plate.
Another positive for the Royals on Monday was five innings of relief by Kris Medlen, which allowed them to rest their top relievers for a second straight day.
"With the three games, you’ve got to make sure you don’t overuse somebody," manager Ned Yost said. "But two games in a row we can utilize those guys in both games, which makes it better. So he did a great job allowing us to do that."