R.A. Dickey surrenders grand slam as struggles continue

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Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey appeared to be getting back on track having logged quality starts in three out of his last four appearances entering this afternoon’s match against the offensively-impotent Mariners. Over six innings today, though, the right-hander allowed three home runs, including a first inning lead-off home run to Michael Saunders (his first of two) and a grand slam to Dustin Ackley in the fourth. When Dickey left after six innings, his ERA was a disappointing 5.36.

The Jays acquired the 2012 NL Cy Young award winner from the Mets with Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas for John Buck, Travis D’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Wuilmer Becerra in one of two big trades the Canadian team made during the off-season. Dickey is just one small part of the 10-21 Jays’ problems, however. Josh Johnson — now on the disabled list — has a 6.86 ERA, Mark Buehrle 6.43, and Brandon Morrow 5.29. Despite having the third-most home runs in the league, the Jays have the lowest batting average (.226), second-lowest on-base percentage (.291), and third-lowest slugging percentage (.389). Their list of injured players is rivaled only by the Dodgers.

As for Dickey, his strikeout rate is down more than six percent and his walk rate is up by more than three percent compared to last year. He is inducing fewer ground balls consequently raising his fly ball rate. Known for having a faster-than-usual knuckleball, its velocity is down 2 MPH from last year. His first-pitch strike rate is at its lowest (52.6%) since 2008 with the Mariners.

Even if the 38-year-old Dickey were to right his sinking ship, the Jays are still in some trouble. But fixing their ace is a good place to start. Fortunately, the Jays are still less than one-fifth of the way through the season, so there is time to turn it around.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.