TORONTO – Chris Sale bounced back from a career-worst performance.
But it wasn’t enough for the White Sox starting pitcher to beat knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Dickey threw six shutout innings before leaving with soreness in his neck and back, Rajai Davis had two hits and the Toronto Blue Jays beat Sale and the Sox, 3-1, on Thursday.
Sale (1-2) allowed a career-high eight runs in his previous start Sunday at Cleveland, but was sharper in this one. The left-hander gave up three runs, two earned, and four hits over seven innings. He walked one and struck out six.
“He threw fine, gave up a couple hits here and there, but stuff-wise he was good,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Against R.A., that’s just tough luck, because he had it going.”
Sale is 2-7 with a 5.83 ERA in his past nine road starts going to last season.
“I felt like I had a little bit better stuff than my previous outing,” he said. “Location was good for the most part.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons felt fortunate to beat Sale.
“It’s early in the season, but it was a game we really needed against one of the top pitchers in baseball,” Gibbons said.
Dickey (2-2) allowed two hits, both singles.
“I had a knuckleball tonight where I would have thrown a complete game,” Dickey said, “so it was unfortunate that [the injury] acted up on me.”
Sox catcher Tyler Flowers never had faced a knuckleballer before, and didn’t fare well in his two at-bats against Dickey.
“For me, it was kind of like someone turned off the lights every couple feet as it was coming to you,” Flowers said. “It was moving that much, at least the ones to me were.”
Dickey said his back first felt sore during his start at Kansas City last Saturday
“It got better over the course of the week, enough so that I felt comfortable taking the ball,” he said. “Hopefully it will continue to get better in between these starts.”
Gibbons called Dickey’s start “outstanding,” and said he didn’t think the knuckler would have to miss any time.
“He’s a tough guy,” Gibbons said. “I’m sure we’ll see him in five days.”
Dickey retired the first 11 White Sox batters before Alex Rios hit a two-out single to center in the fourth. Rios went to second on a wild pitch and Paul Konerko walked, but Adam Dunn struck out to end the inning.
Gibbons and Blue Jays trainer George Poulis came to the mound after Dickey struck out Dewayne Wise for the second out of the sixth. After a brief discussion, Dickey remained in the game, getting Jeff Keppinger to fly out to left.
Dickey appeared to be rubbing his upper back as he left the dugout and walked to the clubhouse at the end of the inning.
“I hadn’t gotten up and sat down so many times since I first felt it, so it was just getting tighter and tighter,” Dickey said.
Esmil Rogers pitched 1 1-3 innings, Aaron Loup got two outs and Casey Janssen finished for his fifth save.
Davis led off the first with a single and stole second and third on consecutive pitches before scoring on Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out hit to left.
Toronto added two more runs in the fifth. Emilio Bonifacio was hit by a pitch and went to third on an errant pickoff throw by Sale.
“I made a stupid throwing error,” Sale said. “I’d like to believe I had him picked off.”
One out later, with the infield drawn in, Bonifacio scored when Dunn couldn’t handle a grounder by Munenori Kawasaki. Davis followed with an RBI double.
The White Sox spoiled Toronto’s shutout bid in the eighth. Alexei Ramirez chased Rogers with a one-out single and scored when Flowers hit a two-out double off Loup. Wise grounded out to end the threat.
White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo left in the eighth with a strained muscle in his left side, suffered when he swung and missed on a pitch from Rogers. He’ll be evaluated Friday when the team returns to Chicago to begin a three-game series with Minnesota.
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista missed his fourth straight game with a sore back. Gibbons said Bautista is “showing progress” and could return Friday against the New York Yankees.
NOTES: Toronto RHP Sergio Santos will not throw for seven days after an MRI confirmed a strained muscle in his throwing arm. Santos was placed on the 15-day DL Monday, retroactive to April 14. ... White Sox OF Alejandro De Aza got the day off. ... Attendance was 18,015.