R.A. Dickey’s Knuckle(ball) Sandwich; Gamboa Update

Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles April 23, 2013

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was in good form during a September 2 game against the Cleveland Indians, over whom the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1. According to AP’s Ian Harrison:

Dickey pitched a four-hitter to win his seventh straight decision, Donaldson had three hits and the Blue Jays beat the Indians 5-1…

Dickey (10-10) threw 92 pitches, including 68 strikes, in his second complete game of the season and 15th of his career. Now 7-0 since the All-Star break, he’s unbeaten in 10 starts dating to a July 9 road loss against the White Sox.

“What’s worked is the bats have exploded when I pitch,” Dickey said. “That’s always nice, to pitch with a lead.”

Dickey set down 14 straight before Jason Kipnis hit a one-out single in the ninth. Francisco Lindor ended it by grounding into a double play.

“Dickey was so good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He just threw a lot of strikes. First time through you saw him show the fastball and then go to the knuckleball. Once he got it rolling, man. For a ball to move that much and for him to command it that well, it was really impressive.”

“Blue Jays deliver knuckle(ball) sandwich to Indians” was how Michael Bode of waitingfornextyear.com (a.k.a. WFNY) put it. Like Harrison, Bode observes that Dickey has been in good form for a while:

R.A. Dickey has been really good in the second half of this season. He has a 2.78 ERA that is largely the construct of two factors: walking fewer batters (4.9 percent BB% compared to 8.9 percent in the first half) and allowing fewer home runs (0.66 HR/9 compared to 1.33 HR/9 in the first half). He continued his trend on Wednesday as he did not allow either a home run or a walk in the contest.

Really, the Indians did not even muster a fight with their bats. Dickey went perfect through the first three innings. Then, he retired the Indians 1-2-3 in the fifth through ninth innings.

* * *

In late August, Eddie Gamboa was removed from the Orioles’ 40-man roster. He will remain with the organization’s minor-league team, the Triple-A Norfolk Tides.

Several months earlier, back in spring training, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had responded to the knuckleballer’s uneven pitching during a 15-2 loss to the Tigers by telling reporters that Gamboa “needs to decide if he’s going to be a knuckleball pitcher or not.” Apparently, the knuckleballer had been reverting a bit too often to the fastball.

In March we quoted Showalter’s comments about Gamboa’s pitching, but not Gamboa’s response, reported by MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli:

“I need to start doing [the knuckleball] more…. I’ve been throwing it for two years now, so I should be able to have a good groove for it. That’s my primary pitch and that’s why I’m here. The more I can throw it, the better, and I know it’s going to get better with more experience. I got beat yesterday with fastballs, which is a terrible situation. But in a weird way, I’m happy to kind of get through that experience so I can prepare myself for what’s to come in the future. And that’s going to be throwing as many knuckleballs as I can….

“As a pitcher you always go to your comfort, and for me I’ve been throwing fastballs and changeups for twenty years now, so it’s hard to go to something [that] you’re unsure whether you can throw it for a strike or not…. I’ve got to find a medium where I could throw the knuckleball as consistently as possible around the strike zone, and that’s going to be the ultimate goal for me this year and the future.”

We noted Gamboa’s later virtual MLB appearance in an April post.

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