TORONTO -- R.A. Dickey said his knuckleball was worthy of a complete game.
But upper back spasms said otherwise.
So the right-handed knuckleballer settled for six innings in which he allowed no runs and two hits as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Chicago White Sox 3-1 on Thursday.
"It was a gutsy performance because it's been bothering him for a couple of days," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He gritted it out."
Dickey (2-2) needed only 64 pitches, allowing one walk, before coming out in favor of right-handed reliever Esmil Rogers to open the seventh before a crowd of 18,015 at Rogers Centre.
Dickey was visited at the mound with two out in the sixth by the trainer and Gibbons but was able to finish the inning.
"I felt something in the Kansas City start (a 3-2 win April 13)," Dickey said. "I was able to get through another inning and a third (in that game). It got better through the week so that I felt comfortable taking the ball. "Hopefully it will continue to get better between the starts. I felt it a little bit (Thursday). The most I felt it was that last inning, I hadn't gotten up and down so many times since I first did it so it was getting tighter and tighter. I had a knuckleball tonight where I could have pitched a complete game."
Asked if he would be able to make his next start, Dickey said: "I think it's too early to speculate. I'm optimistic."
Casey Janssen pitched the ninth to post his fifth save.
White Sox left-hander Chris Sale (1-2) allowed four hits, one walk and three runs (two earned) while striking out six in seven innings.
"It's early in the season but this game we really needed against one of the top pitchers in baseball," Gibbons said.
"He threw fine, gave up a couple hits here and there put stuff-wise, he was good," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Sale. "We just have to clean it up and score some runs. Against R.A., that's just tough luck because he had it going."
Edwin Encarnacion, Munenori Kawasaki and Rajai Davis each drove in a run for the Blue Jays (7-9), who had lost the two previous games to the White Sox (7-9) after taking the series opener Monday.
White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo left with an oblique strain during his at-bat in the eighth. Jordan Danks batted for him with a 1-and-1 count and struck out against Rogers. Viciedo did not feel that the injury would put him on the disabled list but he will be re-evaluated Friday.
Left-hander Aaron Loup replaced Rogers after Alexei Ramirez singled with one out in the eight. He retired pinch-hitter Tyler Greene on a fly to right but allowed a run-scoring double to Tyler Flowers.
Flowers struck out in the third against Dickey and was 0-for-2 against the knuckleballer.
"That's the first time I have seen one," Flowers said, "So for me it was kind of like someone turned off the lights every couple feet as it was coming to you -- it was moving that much, at least the ones to me were.
"He seems to be able to control which way it moves to an extent. The strikeout to me kind of dove down and away, which I'm sure I've heard him on TV talk about it before where he can kind of manipulate it sometimes. It seemed like he was effectively doing that today when he needed it."
The Blue Jays scored a run in the first after Davis led off with a single, stole second and third, and came home on Encarnacion's two-out single.
Dickey retired the first 11 batters he faced with five strikeouts before former Blue Jay Alex Rios singled to center in the fourth. Rios took second on a wild pitch and Paul Konerko walked. But Adam Dunn struck out.
The Blue Jays increased the lead to 3-0 in the fifth. Emilio Bonifacio was hit by a pitch. He scooted to third on Sale's wild pickoff throw to first and scored when Dunn flubbed Munenori Kawsaki's grounder to first with the infield in. Kawasaki reached first base. With one out, Davis doubled to the gap in left center to score Kawasaki.
"I want something to take something from this game and it is to start paying closer attention to the runners," Sale said. "They just had free rein out there it seemed like, especially in the first. I felt like I had a little bit better stuff than my previous outing. Location was good for the most part, but some things happened. I made a stupid throwing error at first; I'd like to believe I had him picked off."
NOTES: Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (back spasms) missed his fourth consecutive game, but manager John Gibbons said before the game that he is making progress and could return to the lineup soon. ... White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper (diverticulitis) will rejoin the team for the opener of a 10-game homestand on Friday against the Minnesota Twins. He was taken to a hospital April 9 and returned to Chicago on Saturday. ... The White Sox entered the game batting .181 with runners in scoring position, 14th in the American League. ... The Blue Jays entered the game batting .185 with runners in scoring position, 13th in the AL. ... The Blue Jays open a three-game series against the New York Yankees on Friday, with right-hander Brandon Morrow (0-1, 4.60 ERA) facing left-hander Andy Pettitte (2-0, 1.20). ... The White Sox send out right-hander Jake Peavy (2-1, 3.41) against right-hander Vance Worley (0-2, 10.50) in Friday's opener of a three-game series against the Twins.