With a whole new look and a lot more swagger, the Toronto Blue Jays have been playing very well against the top club in the American League.
After coming out on the losing end of an exciting slugfest with Kansas City, the Blue Jays look to take three of four from the Royals in Sunday's series finale.
Ben Zobrist homered from both sides of the plate and Eric Hosmer singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth Saturday to help Kansas City (62-41) snap a three-game skid. Facing new Blue Jays reliever Mark Lowe, Zobrist tied it at 5 with a drive in the eighth.
"We had to have this one today," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We had to."
Toronto (53-52) got a pair of solo homers from Jose Bautista and a two-run shot from Josh Donaldson before threatening in the bottom of the ninth to no avail.
Now the club looks for its first win in a series of at least four games against the Royals since a road sweep April 20-23, 2012, behind their only starter with a losing mark after acquiring All-Star left-hander David Price, who starts Monday against Minnesota.
R.A. Dickey (5-10, 4.27 ERA), however, takes the hill in this finale looking to win three straight starts for the first time since Sept. 2-13. After a four-start losing streak where the Blue Jays gave him just four total runs of support, the right-hander has gone 2-1 with a 1.53 ERA in his last four outings.
He's made it through at least eight in his last two, going 8 1-3 innings in a 5-2 win at Oakland on July 23 before holding Philadelphia to two unearned runs in an 8-2 victory Wednesday.
"I've been able to consistently execute a mechanic that produces a good knuckleball, that's what it always comes down to," he told MLB's official website.
With Toronto's recent moves signaling its playoff intentions, Dickey sustaining his surge could provide just as big of a boost. He's 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts against Kansas City since joining the Blue Jays, but was roughed up for five runs and 10 hits in five innings in an 8-6 loss May 29, 2014, the last time he faced them.
Zobrist is 6 for 37 (.162) with nine strikeouts lifetime against Dickey, though Omar Infante is 17 for 34.
Opposing Dickey will be right-hander Edinson Volquez (10-5, 3.21), who is also riding a two-start win streak as he tries to help earn a series split. The Royals seem to have a good chance since Volquez has lost only once in his last 10 starts.
After tossing 7 2-3 innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts to beat Pittsburgh on July 22, he went six innings at Cleveland on Monday and gave up three runs in a 9-4 victory that gave him at least 10 in two straight seasons.
"I won 13 last year and I want to go over 13 this year," he said. "And everybody here keeps talking about how James Shields got 13 wins last year, so I want to go past him and get 15 or 16."
To continue marching toward those numbers, Volquez will have to turn the tide on his career struggles against the Blue Jays. He is 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA over five starts against Toronto, which is the only team he's faced that many times without a win.