All Hail Dickey Knuckleball

The news from Fios1 about last Friday’s home game for the Toronto Blue Jays: “R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball sinks Yankees 4-0.”

“He had it working today,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “The other day in Tampa it wasn’t on. Today it was on. This was a big game for us, we needed to bounce back, he stepped up.”

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Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young winner, said improved velocity was the key to his strong start.

“My velocities were a lot better this time through than they were in Tampa,” he said. “It’s nice to get over that against a very good ball club in the AL East.”

“Dickey bounces back with ‘electric’ knuckleball” was the Sportsnet.ca headline. Writes Ben Nicholson-Smith:

Five days after issuing a career-high six walks, R.A. Dickey shut down the New York Yankees with a reassuring bounce-back performance. It was a relief for the Toronto Blue Jays, who are counting on the knuckleballer for performances in settings just like this: against deep lineups, after tough losses, in front of sellout crowds.

Yet Dickey says some ups and downs are inevitable with knuckleball pitchers.

“You’ve got to live and die with the pitch. That’s part of what makes it difficult to do at the big league level and it makes it very special,” Dickey said. “You’ve got to try to have the resolve to hold both. Tonight was very different, much better obviously.”…

“I certainly feel much more in control when I’m able to get to those higher velocities,” Dickey said. “The thing that has always separated me from a traditional knuckleballer is that the velocities have been a little bit higher.”

Despite the headline for Ian Harrison’s widely reprinted story for Associated Press, “Dickey gets win as Blue Jays blank Yankees 4-0” (published as “Knuckleball shuts down Yankees” in The Trentonian), much of Harrison’s story has to do with controversy over new rules implemented this season to block catchers from blocking runners “unless they have possession of the ball.” Toronto Blue Jays catcher John Thole’s play was challenged after he tagged out Francisco Cervelli at home.

Replays showed Thole was straddling the plate while awaiting the throw, then dropped his right knee to block Cervelli immediately after receiving the ball.

“The way it was explained to us is if you’re straddling the base in front, toward third base, that is considered to be blocking home plate,” [Yankees manager Joe] Girardi said. “To me, it’s clear that he’s doing that.”…

Even Thole acknowledged being unfamiliar with the rules, approved in January on an experimental basis for 2014.

After reviewing the play, umpires upheld the out, denying the Yankees a run. As for Dickey:

Dickey (1-1) allowed six runs and five hits in his season-opening start at TampaBay last Monday but was much sharper against New York. The 2012 NL Cy Young winner gave up five hits in 6 2-3 innings, walked one and struck out six.

“The knuckleball was electric and his command of it was really good,” Thole said.

A day before these April 5 reports, AP reported: “Jeter Gets Day Off; Yanks Endure Bumpy Flight” into Canada. Then came the game.

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