So far, 2013 has been a pain in the neck to R.A. Dickey
Dickey, fighting neck and back pain that has plagued him all month, took a two-hitter into the seventh inning, but his return to New York was spoiled as the Yankees beat the struggling Blue Jays, 3-2, to complete a four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium.
Dickey (2-4) allowed four hits and a walk in seven innings in his first game in New York since the Mets traded him to Toronto on Dec. 17. But two of those hits were home runs that accounted for all three of the Yankees' runs.
The 38-year-old knuckleballer was strong early, aside from a hiccup in the second inning, when he allowed a one-out home run by Brennan Boesch that gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
After allowing a single by Lyle Overbay two batters later, Dickey retired nine straight batters. He walked Eduardo Nuñez with two outs in the fifth to end the streak, but the Blue Jays gave him a 2-1 lead to work with in the sixth. "I'm not feeling great, and so to say I was in a groove, the results were good," Dickey said. "I didn't necessarily feel like I was myself."
Things unraveled in the seventh. He allowed a leadoff single to Travis Hafner, and two outs later, Overbay sent a 1-and-1 pitch into the Yankees' bullpen in right-centerfield to put the Yankees ahead for good.
"I threw him a couple of very mediocre knuckleballs and he got a couple of base hits, one being a home run," Dickey said.
The loss was the latest in what has been a down year for Dickey, who has a 4.50 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 36 innings in six starts. He admitted that the pain in his neck and back has affected his last few starts.
"You only really have two options: You can pout about it or you can grind it out," Dickey said. "I'm certainly going to try to grind it out."
Dickey did not rule out the possibility of an MRI -- "see exactly what's going on, see if we can pinpoint the treatment a little better," he said.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said the team has talked to Dickey about the tightness and that it gradually is getting better.
"He's said it's the equivalent of if you had a scab, and every time you pitch, you pick at it," Anthopoulos said. "But it is actually gradually getting better, just taking a little more time."
The Blue Jays certainly hope it doesn't take too much more time. The team that many had predicted to win the AL East now sits at 9-17, second-worst in the American League.
Of his team's need to turn things around, Dickey said: "You can't win eight games on one night. You just have to win one."