ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – R.A. Dickey baffled the Tampa Bay Rays again.
Dickey pitched a two-hitter for his first complete game of the year, Jose Reyes went 0 for 4 in his return from a two-month layoff and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Rays 3-0 Wednesday for their 12th win in 14 games.
“I just concentrate on trying to produce a good knuckleball down in the strike zone for a strike, and today I was able to do that,” Dickey said. “Mechanically, I was very repeatable, and you saw the results. They were hitting a lot of ground balls, I had a high strike percentage, so that’s what I’m looking for.”
Dickey (7-8) retired his first 13 batters before James Loney grounded a single between shortstop and third base with one out in the fifth. Yunel Escobar had a one-out single in the sixth, then was erased when Matt Joyce hit a double-play grounder.
“Tremendous,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “You could tell early on he had it going. That ball was dancing. Big break. We played a nice ballgame and as good a game as you can pitch, I guess, unless it’s perfect.”
Dickey struck out six and walked one. The knuckleballer pitched a one-hitter for the New York Mets against the Rays on June 13 last year, allowing B.J. Upton’s first-inning infield single.
“He was really good, there’s no question,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We didn’t hit, I think, even one ball hard. He was just on top of his game.”
Only one Tampa Bay runner, Desmond Jennings who walked and stole second in the seventh, advanced past first base.
Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion homered for the Blue Jays, who had lost two in a row after tying their team record of 11 straight wins.
Reyes, the All-Star shortstop traded from Miami to Toronto during the off-season, had been sidelined since severely spraining his left ankle sliding into second base during an April 12 game at Kansas City. He grounded out three times, stranding runners on second in the third and fifth innings, and also flied out. His average dropped from .397 to .357 (15 for 42).
“Everything felt the way that I expected,” Reyes said. “I enjoyed being out there because I missed that for a long time.”
Reyes also made a nifty defensive play in the first inning, going into the hole to make a back-handed grab and then throw out Jennings at first.
“It’s fun to feel the effect of that right out of the chute,” Dickey said. “I’ve played with him for a while now, and I’ll tell my grandkids about him. He’s that good of a player.”
Jose Bautista doubled leading off the fourth and scored on Melky Cabrera’s two-out single. Lind homered in the sixth and Encarnacion in the ninth.
Roberto Hernandez (4-9) gave up three runs and six hits in eight-plus innings.
“I think Roberto was fantastic,” Maddon said. “That was probably his best game all year. Both sides pitched well.”
NOTES: To make room for Reyes, Toronto optioned SS Munenori Kawasaki to Triple-A Buffalo after Tuesday’s game. It was a move that prompted Gibbons to hold a team meeting to announce the news. “It’s always tough sending anybody out, but there’s something special about this guy,” Gibbons said. “He was so well-liked and loved by this teammates. He’ll be back.” Gibbons said this is first time he has done something like that in his managerial career. … The game was played in 2 hours, 10 minutes. … 2B Ben Zobrist took a hit away from Lind in the second, diving to his right to field a hard shot and then throwing to first.