TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays right-hander R.A. Dickey admits that he feels like he has been stuck in the mud.
But the knuckleball pitcher also senses that he is beginning to free himself after he pitched a season-best eight innings to win his second start in a row as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 7-5 on Monday afternoon.
The game turned when Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run double with two outs in the seventh inning to snap a 3-3 tie before a crowd of 29,885 at Rogers Centre.
"I feel like I've been stuck in a quagmire the last week or two, so it's nice to feel like you get at least one foot out of it," Dickey said. "The knuckleball can be a very capricious animal. It's there one batter and then it kind of goes away."
Dickey (4-5) allowed four hits, four walks and three runs (two earned) while striking out five with 120 pitches, but he said he is not where he wants to be with his release point.
"It's still being inconsistent," he said. "I'm walking more guys than I want to, which is causing my pitch counts to be higher. That should have been a game where my pitch count should have been around 100 pitches after eight, not 120. I've just got to keep grinding it out."
Casey Janssen pitched the ninth in his first outing since May 11 and allowed a walk and three hits, including a two-out, two-run home run by former Blue Jays Yunel Escobar.
Right-handed reliever Josh Lueke (0-1) walked the bases loaded with two outs in the seventh, and Encarnacion cleared them with a double to left field to put Toronto up 6-3.
The Blue Jays added a run against Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth on a two-out walk to Henry Blanco and a triple by Munenori Kawasaki.
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi, 23, who was 4-0 with a 3.83 earned-run average in eight starts at Class AAA Durham, did not factor in the decision in his first start of the season for Tampa Bay (23-21). He allowed five hits, one walk and three runs while striking out six in five innings.
The Blue Jays (18-26) scored twice in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Adam Lind and a triple by Brett Lawrie. In their past three games at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays have outscored the opposition 13-1 in the first inning.
"Starting off I just couldn't get in a groove," Odorizzi said. "Once I did, it felt good. The first inning is always the toughest, but after the first I thought it went really well. Anybody in my situation I think would be really excited. It's not about throwing hard or anything like that; you've got to hit your spots early on. ...There's room for improvement, that's for sure."
Melky Cabrera led off the first with a single and took third on a one-out single by Encarnacion. Lind's fly to left scored the run, and Encarnacion moved all the way to third on an error charged to shortstop Escobar on the relay throw. Lawrie tripled to the gap in right-center for a 2-0 lead.
"He settled in after that first inning and threw some really good curveballs." Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I didn't realize how good his hook was."
"He's a highly thought of guy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He knows what he's doing out there; he's got a chance to be a good one."
The Rays scored once in the second after Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to a career-best 14 games with a leadoff single. He took second on a passed ball and moved to third on James Loney's groundout. Luke Scott walked with one out. The Blue Jays failed to turn the double play on Sam Fuld's grounder to second, getting only the force at second as Longoria scored.
Doubles by Blanco -- the Rays thought they had tagged him out at second -- and Cabrera in the home second gave the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead. It was the sixth consecutive game in which Cabrera has doubled, a career best.
A two-out walk to Matt Joyce, a single by Ben Zobrist and a two-run double by Longoria over right fielder Jose Bautista, who misjudged the ball, tied the game 3-3 in the third.
But then Dickey held off the Rays for the rest of his outing.
"He did a great job," Gibbons said. "After they tied it up I think he only gave up one hit. He was on a nice little roll.
"You look at the way he pitches, he usually gets stronger as the game goes on, he finds that groove."
NOTES: The Blue Jays called up outfielder Anthony Gose, who was batting .227 with a .343 on-base percentage, two home runs and 12 RBIs at Class AAA Buffalo. He will likely be used as a late-game defensive replacement in left field for Cabrera, who has leg problems. Gose replaced Cabrera in left field in the eighth on Monday. ... Right-hander Mickey Storey was returned to Buffalo. ... When the Rays called up Odorizzi after Sunday's game in Baltimore, left-hander Jeff Beliveau was returned to Durham after a one-day stay with the Rays. ... Longoria is the only Rays player to start every game this season and has reached base in 43 of their first 44 games. ... Right-hander Ramon Ortiz (1-1, 2.35 ERA) will start Tuesday for the Blue Jays against Rays right-hander Alex Cobb (4-2, 2.89 ERA).