ARLINGTON, Texas — All hands will be on deck Monday if the Blue Jays stay alive in their American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers.
Toronto manager John Gibbons confirmed that knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will start Game 4 of the best-of-five series, if necessary, with pitching ace David Price available as needed.
“If things go as planned, we have a good ball game (Sunday), win, you can expect to see Dickey out there, but we also could have Price coming out of the bullpen,” Gibbons said prior to Game 3 Sunday night at Globe Life Park. “You could have anyone coming out of the bullpen because you have to win.
“We’ve done it before, he (Price) is on board, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
Marcus Stroman, who started Game 2 after Price kicked off the series, is also willing to pitch in relief if needed.
After losing the first two games in Toronto, the Jays faced three must-win contests starting Sunday.
At this stage the Blue Jays seem willing to do anything, with starter Marco Estrada tasked with getting them through Game 3.
Left-hander Derek Holland is slated to pitch for the Rangers in Game 4. Dickey was originally announced to face him, although MLB.com had a TBD by the Jays starter earlier Sunday.
Gibbons said Dickey will go as planned.
The veteran pitcher said he was confident that he will get a chance to make another start. But he admitted that the “finality” of the playoffs was palpable.
“I will be very, very disappointed and sad if I don’t get a chance to pitch in the post-season,” he said. “It will really be sad for me but I’ve enjoyed every minute up until this moment.”
For Dickey, making the post-season in the majors is a career first. And he is soaking it up.
“It’s just a rich experience, because I have an interesting history,” he said with a smile. “Especially when I started my career with the Texas Rangers. The first 10 years of my career were with Texas and that’s where I became a knuckleballer — when (manager) Buck Showalter pulled me in the office. That was in 2005 and here we are in 2015, 10 years later and we’re going back in there to play them again and a game where I may get to pitch.
“So it’s a neat narrative, no doubt. And it makes for a real rich experience.”
Dickey has come a long way indeed.
In 2006 as a fledgling Rangers knuckleballer, he gave up six home runs to Detroit to tie the post-1900 major-league record. The only pitcher to concede more homers was Charlie Sweeney of the St. Louis Maroons, who allowed seven against the Detroit Wolverines in 1886.
Dickey gave up eight hits, only two of which weren’t homers. Showalter finally pulled him in the fourth with Texas trailing 7-0.
It was not Dickey’s first setback by any measure. In his first knuckleball outing the year before for the Class AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks, he was battered for 14 hits and 12 runs by the Iowa Cubs in 5 2/3 innings.
Fast forward to 2012 when Dickey won the NL Cy Young Award, becoming the first knuckleballer to claim the honour. That year, he became the Mets first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990, and sixth in team history joining Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Viola.
This season, Dickey recorded his 100th career win, in his 100th start as a Blue Jay.
In 2015, he led the Jays with 33 starts (tied for second in the AL), 214 1/3 innings pitched (fourth in AL) and 20 quality starts (tied for eighth in the AL).
Dickey lost just one of his last 14 starts, posting a 2.88 earned-run average and .230 opponents’ average. He went 8-2 over his last 16 starts with a 2.78 ERA.
While Dickey’s season got stronger and stronger, he was just 2-8 in 16 starts on the road this season with a 4.83 ERA.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press