Dickey deals Yankees setback in Wild Card pursuit

Dickey deals Yankees setback in Wild Card pursuit

Dickey deals Yankees setback in Wild Card pursuit

TORONTO -- It may have taken all season, but R.A. Dickey seems to have figured out the Rogers Centre.

Dickey had an ERA almost two full runs higher at home entering Tuesday's contest with the Yankees, but was basically flawless over seven strong innings.

The 38-year-old knuckleballer shut out an opponent at home for just the second time this season, and the first time since April 18, as the Blue Jays defeated the Yankees, 2-0.

Despite an impressive line, early on Dickey was having all sorts of trouble containing the Yankees, who entered the night 2 1/2 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot and finished it 3 1/2 back of both the Rays and Rangers for one of two Wild Card berths.

It took 51 pitches for the Toronto starter to get through the first two innings, as he allowed three hits and two walks, but walked away unscathed.

The closest the Yankees came to solving the knuckleball came in the first, as Dickey loaded the bases. However, Dickey ended the inning by striking out the powerful Mark Reynolds to end New York's biggest threat.

Things got a little rocky in the second frame as well before getting out of it, then Dickey cruised the rest of the way. He allowed just one more hit, a single, and faced the minimum 15 batters over the final five frames on just 50 pitches.

"I just didn't get discouraged the first two innings," Dickey said. "I was throwing good knuckleballs. I thought I had a couple of pitches 3-2 that ended up being balls, but outside of that, it was moving pretty drastically tonight. Even in the first two innings, I knew I had a pretty good one, and just needed to stay the course."

"He got stronger as he went on, I think. That was the difference," catcher Josh Thole said. "You could see it in his velocity, it kind of jumped up in the third inning, he was throwing the harder one consistently and it was all over."

In total, Dickey tossed seven shutout innings, allowing four hits, a pair of walks, and striking out eight. He now has a 2.67 ERA over his last five starts at home.

The biggest difference for the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner of late has been the return of his hard knuckleball.

Dickey struggled early in the season with back and neck soreness that took away some of his velocity. As a result, his typical low-80s knuckleball had lost a couple miles per hour and didn't have the same depth and movement.

That's when Dickey decided to change speeds more, because the softer knuckler had the depth he was looking for, but Tuesday's game was almost exclusively hard.

"I think today was just consistently the hardest [I've thrown this season,]" Dickey said. "[That's how I threw] 65 or 75 percent of my outings last year."

His personal catcher last year with the Mets agreed.

"What you saw tonight is what I saw last year for 25 starts. It was consistently that every night," Thole said. "It stayed hard with the knuckleball the whole night. For the most part, it was moving all over the place. I actually noticed in the 'pen it was moving a little more than I've seen since I've been here."

Like the Blue Jays' starter, Andy Pettitte was solid for the Yankees, but he made one mistake that left him with the loss.

Pettitte kept Toronto off the scoreboard through three innings, including working his way out of a runners-in-scoring-position, one-out jam in the third. The veteran lefty got both Rajai Davis and Brett Lawrie to fly out on the first pitch to keep the game scoreless.

However, that all changed in the fourth. Colby Rasmus hit a 2-2 slider into the second deck in right field to open the Blue Jays' scoring.

It's the third straight game the outfielder has hit a home run, upping his total to 21 on the season, despite missing Sunday's finale vs. the Orioles thanks to general body soreness.

"I made a terrible mistake to Rasmus and it cost us the ballgame," Pettitte said of his lone run allowed.

Shawn Kelley would replace the veteran lefty in the seventh, and immediately allowed a home run to Davis, who hit a line drive into the second deck in left field to put the Blue Jays up two.

That's all it took in the low scoring affair, as Sergio Santos and Casey Janssen combined to close out the game for the home squad.

For Janssen it marked his 31st save of the season in 33 chances.

While the playoffs are a distant thought with the Blue Jays officially being eliminated Tuesday, Dickey continues to use all the available time left in the season to learn, tinker, and improve as he works toward 2014, where he believes the Blue Jays will find what was missing this season.

"It's nice to continue to grow," Dickey said. "These are important games for me in particular, at least I see them as that, because we're going to be competing next year and it's important to try and get it right, now. So, every time I come to the field, I'm still trying to work on it."

Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.