Astros-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

After a rough opening outing, R.A. Dickey rebounded with a performance he hopes will pave the way for a more successful season than his first in Toronto.

The knuckleballer looks to build on his most recent start and help the Blue Jays complete a series sweep of the visiting Houston Astros on Thursday night.

Dickey (1-1, 4.63 ERA) was tagged for six runs, five hits and matched a career high with six walks in five innings of a 9-2 loss at Tampa Bay on March 31. He then allowed five hits, struck out six and walked one in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-0 home victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday.

"My velocities were a lot better this time through than they were in Tampa," he said. "It's nice to get over that."

The right-hander struggled to keep his knuckleball above the mid-70 mph range against the Rays, but he was able to reach the high 70s and low 80s on Saturday.

"You have to live and die with the pitch," Dickey told the Blue Jays' official website. "That's part of what makes it very hard to do at the big league level, and it makes it very special."

Dickey is off to a better start than 2013, when he followed his Cy Young season with the New York Mets by going 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA and finishing 14-13 with a 4.21 ERA in 34 starts.

"It's nice to have a good outing under my belt within the first couple of outings," he said. "It takes a few times to get your rhythm going and to get into the heartbeat of the season."

Dickey is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA in seven starts against the Astros. He allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 12-6 home win last season.

After failing to score more than four runs in each of their first seven games, the Blue Jays (5-4) opened this set with a 5-2 win Tuesday then recorded a season-high 10 hits during Wednesday's 7-3 victory over Houston (3-6).

Brett Lawrie hit a two-run homer and Melky Cabrera added two hits as Toronto won its third straight and fifth in six games at home over the Astros.

Cabrera is batting .325 while hitting safely in all nine games, and he's batting .387 during a seven-game hitting streak against Houston.

Marc Krauss was 0 for 14 in his first five games but had two of the six hits Wednesday for Houston, which is batting .199. Houston has struck out 83 times after setting a major league record with 1,535 last season.

Dallas Keuchel hopes to be more effective after he allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings of a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in his season debut Saturday.

The left-hander went 1-0 in two starts against the Blue Jays in 2013. He got the win despite allowing six runs and 10 hits in 7 1-3 innings of an 8-6 victory at Toronto on July 27, then yielded four hits in seven scoreless innings of a 2-1 home defeat Aug. 25.