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Astros' secret weapon helps them handle Dickey

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- Toronto Blue Jays right-hander R.A. Dickey felt he had a good knuckleball going on Thursday, but he took a loss when he allowed two home runs that accounted for five runs.

He did not account for the Houston Astros' secret weapon, former major league knuckleball pitcher Steve Sparks, now a radio broadcaster for the team.

Sparks threw the knuckleball in the cage for the hitters before Thursday's 6-4 win and it seemed to pay off.

"I think it always helps," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It's not every day that you face knuckleball pitchers. We are fortunate enough to have Steve come out and be willing to get in the cage and throw knuckleballs to our guys on the days we are facing knuckleballers and I think it paid dividends today."

Dickey felt that his knuckleball was so good that he was going to pitch a complete game.

"Some of the ones they hit were pretty good knuckleballs," he said. "They did a good job."

Left fielder Robbie Grossman has been struggling at the plate so far this season but he gave Sparks credit for his two-run homer against Dickey on Thursday.

"Just seeing it (helped)," he said. "Because you never see it. Just to get a look at it all. Thankful that Sparksy could come down and throw some BP. Just the look of it, of the knuckleball, 'cause you never see it."

When it mentioned that Dickey throws a harder than usual knuckleball, Grossman said, "Yeah, but Steve's still got it."

The teams don't meet again until July 31-Aug. 3 in Houston. If Dickey has a start in that series, look for Sparks to show one more time that he still has it.
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