Blue Jays-Rangers Preview
R.A. Dickey was with the Texas Rangers when he started to develop his knuckleball, with some disastrous early results.
That’s why it’s fitting that his first career postseason start will be in Arlington when he takes the ball for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Dickey will try to help the Blue Jays avoid elimination again and even this AL division series at two games apiece Monday.
The right-hander began his career with Texas in 2001. His career soon became derailed by injuries, and the Rangers suggested he try out the knuckleball, which accounted for a game in 2006 when he gave up a career-worst six homers.
Dickey was with the Rangers for five seasons – the most among the five teams he has pitched for. Now he’ll face them in his first playoff appearance after going 11-11 with a 3.91 ERA, including 8-1 with a 2.80 ERA in 15 starts since the All-Star break.
"You know, it’s special for sure, and that seems like such a cliche word but it’s funny how it’s come full circle for me personally, having learned the knuckleball here in 2005, and now potentially with a chance to take the series back to Toronto with a Game 4 start," the 40-year-old Dickey said. "It’s poetic, is what it is for me. It’s a neat narrative."
Dickey has not faced the Rangers this year after going 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts in 2014. He is 2-1 with a 3.05 ERA in five career starts as a visitor in Arlington, where he feels the movement on his knuckleball can be difficult on hitters.
"Here it’s good because the humidity is usually nice and it’s usually warmer, and those are two things that contribute to a moving knuckleball, one that reacts favorably as far as movement’s concerned," Dickey said. "That’s what I rely on."
Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre are both 3 for 13 against Dickey.
Beltre, however, was again out of the starting lineup for Game 4 after sitting out the last two due to the strained lower back suffered in the opener. Hanser Alberto is starting at third base.
Game 1 starter David Price may not be available out of the bullpen after the Blue Jays said he was for Sunday. Price warmed up during the 5-1 victory, though he didn’t enter.
"We have to talk to him," manager John Gibbons said.
Troy Tulowitzki went 2 for 4 with a three-run homer and four RBIs after going 0 for 10 in the first two games.
"It’s only a matter of two games so you just stick with it," Tulowitzki said. "You know it will come around, and just keep on battling. I think that’s what I’ve been doing all year and it paid off tonight."
It was Toronto’s first postseason victory since Joe Carter’s home run won the 1993 World Series.
The Rangers will start Derek Holland, who went 4-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 10 starts during a season in which he missed four months after tearing a muscle in his throwing shoulder. Holland has extensive postseason experience with a 3.79 ERA in 13 appearances, going 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA in four starts in the 2011 playoffs.
"He’s been here before, he’s been in these type of games and has shown up very well in the fast," manager Jeff Banister said. "We expect Derek to come out and throw a quality baseball game for us."
That expectation might be much since Holland went 1-2 with a 7.62 ERA in his last five outings. The left-hander faced Toronto once this year, yielding four runs in six innings Aug. 25 and not getting a decision in a 6-5 defeat.
Josh Donaldson is 6 for 20 with two homers against Holland and Edwin Encarnacion is 5 for 15 while also going deep twice.
Encarnacion is 2 for 11 in the series and Jose Bautista is 3 for 13.