Rays outlast Blue Jays in rare matchup between reigning Cy Young winners
In the third-ever matchup between two reigning Cy Young winners, neither the Rays’ David Price nor the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey was in award-winning form, but both battled back after rough showings in the early innings to provide their teams with quality starts. Both were long gone by the time the game went into extra innings with the score still knotted at 4-4. The Rays ultimately won on a walk-off walk by Luke Scott in the 10th inning.
Both teams touched up the opposing starter for three runs in the first three frames. Tampa Bay scored two off Dickey in the bottom of the first thanks to RBI doubles from Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria, and one in the third on an RBI triple by Ben Zobrist, a switch-hitter who batted righty against the right-handed knuckleballer. Toronto scored a run in the second on an RBI single by Brett Lawrie, and two in the third, set up by a Longoria throwing error, with Jose Bautista’s RBI double tying the game and Edwin Encarnacion’s single briefly giving them the lead.
The Blue Jays took the lead against Price in the fifth when Rajai Davis singled and seemingly pulled a run out of his pocket, stealing second and third base on consecutive pitches, and scoring on Bautista’s sacrifice fly. The Rays tied it up immediately after Dickey departed, with Yunel Escobar greeting Steve Delabar with a solo homer.
Price wound up working eight innings, allowing seven hits and one walk while striking out eight. Of the four runs he allowed, two were unearned. Via the PITCHf/x data at BrooksBaseball.net, the velocity of his sinker was slightly ahead of where it’s been this year — averaging 94.3 MPH, compared to 93.9 prior — but still down from last year’s 96.2 MPH. He was relatively efficient, topping 20 pitches only in the third inning (21) and settling into a groove as the game lengthened; where he used 69 pitches in the first four innings, he needed just 48 to complete the last four, going to 15 pitches only in his final frame. The eight innings matched his season high, set against the Yankees on April 23. It was just his second start of the season in which he didn’t allow a homer.
Dickey lasted only six innings because he was considerably less efficient. He surrendered five hits and walked five to go with his five strikeouts, and one of the three runs he allowed was unearned. He needed 24 pitches to get through the first frame, during which he faced seven hitters, and while he worked the next three on 39 pitches, his fifth inning was a 31-pitch slog that included two walks, a balk and a passed ball. According to BrooksBaseball, his knuckleball averaged 76.0 MPH, a hair above this season’s 75.7 mark, but well off last year’s 77.7.
During the game, the Rays’ broadcast booth offered an alarming graphic that helped to explain Dickey’s lack of success this year due to the loss of his “angry knuckleball”: Last year, he threw 491 knuckleballs at or above 80 MPH, an average of 14.9 per start. Prior to this start, he had thrown just 12 at or above 80 MPH, an average of 1.7 per start. According to the f/x data, he did reach 80 MPH seven times in this game, with a high of 82.3 MPH. None of those pitches was put into play, however, and none generated a swing and miss. He did get 12 swings and misses with the knuckleball overall, only one of which came from among the 18 he threw at 78 MPH or above — a velocity that marked a key point of inflection with regards to his effectiveness last year. Only two of those 18 were put into play, the RBI double by Johnson in the first.
All in all, the Price-Dickey matchup couldn’t equal the Frank Viola-Orel Hershiser battle from 1989, which marked the first time two reigning Cy Young winners ever squared off, and which resulted in a 1-0 win for Viola’s Mets via his three-hit shutout of Hershiser’s Dodgers. It was a more closely contested game than the second such matchup in 1999 pairing the Braves’ Tom Glavine and the Yankees’ Roger Clemens, which Atlanta won 6-2. The win lifted the Rays to 16-18, and knocked the Blue Jays to 13-23