Blue Jays-Athletics preview

BY foxsports • July 16, 2016

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey hopes to pick up where he left off before the All-Star break on Saturday against the Oakland A's, when he makes his 20th start of the season.

A's right-hander Sonny Gray hopes to put a nightmarish first half of the season behind him and make a fresh start against the Blue Jays.

Dickey went 2-6 with a 4.64 ERA in his first 11 starts of the season but was 5-3 with a 3.02 ERA in his final eight starts before the break. He's won three of his past four starts, striking out 24 and walking seven during that stretch.

"The month of April's never been real kind to him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Friday. "He came into spring training focused on trying to (get off to a fast start), but you know, these guys that have been around a while, you can almost bank on it that what they do every year, it's almost going to happen. Some of it's got to be mental a little bit too, but he's been on a nice little run."

Dickey said there's "no real rhyme or reason" for his slow starts.

"I think maybe the warmer temperatures probably help a little bit with the pitch that I throw," Dickey said. "I feel like I've gotten it back to where I need it to be. But yeah, I'm traditionally a pretty slow starter."

Gray, who finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season, has never experienced such a horrible start. He's 3-8 with 5.16 ERA and hasn't won a game since April 22. He's lost a career-high seven straight decisions and had a 6.16 ERA during that 12-game stretch.

"What's happened in the past has happened in the past," Gray said. "You can come out and take tomorrow's start and go out and try and win a game. I think just taking that approach and whatever happened in the first half of the season kind of just throw that to the side and start here. I feel really good and feel good about that."

Dickey is 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA in 18 career appearances, including 14 starts, against the A's. At the Oakland Coliseum, he's 1-3 with a 2.78 ERA in eight games, including six starts.

"It's a great pitcher's park usually," Dickey said, of the Coliseum. "I've always enjoyed the foul territory here in particular."

The A's hit three home runs in their 8-7 victory Friday night in the series opener, a two-run blast by Khris Davis and solo shots by Josh Reddick and Stephen Vogt, but they'll have to adjust Saturday in a rare test against a knuckleball pitcher.

"I see it and hit it," Reddick said of his approach. "I've always been told that on a knuckleballer you sit fastball and swing under the knuckleball. I pretty much just guess where it's going to be and hopefully it is there.

"He throws it a little firmer than most of them. Back in the day he'd throw his knuckleball like 85 (mph) and then his fastball was like 88 when I faced him in the minors. And now it seems like he's slowed it down for more movement."



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