After getting hit hard in his first two starts, R.A. Dickey was solid his last time out.
Chris Sale, in contrast, is coming off the ugliest performance of his career.
Dickey takes the mound opposite Sale as the Toronto Blue Jays try to salvage a four-game split with the visiting Chicago White Sox on Thursday night.
While Dickey (1-2, 5.82 ERA) entered this season with high expectations, the reigning NL Cy Young award winner compiled an 8.44 ERA through his first two turns in the rotation. The veteran knuckleballer, though, found his form Saturday in a 3-2 win at Kansas City, scattering five hits over 6 1-3 innings of one-run ball.
"We never could muster a consistent attack against Dickey," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "His knuckler was really dancing. We never could get any consistent momentum."
Though he was pleased with the effort, Dickey believes his best is yet to come.
"My posture was a little better for my mechanics, and that's something I feel I can build on," he told MLB's official website. "I still wasn't as sharp as I can be. I'm not all the way there, but I'm pretty close."
Dickey is 1-1 with a 14.14 ERA over two career starts against the White Sox (7-8), but he hasn't faced them since 2009. Paul Konerko and Alex Rios are a combined 7 for 20 against Dickey, each taking him deep twice.
Sale (1-1, 5.21), meanwhile, had recorded a 1.84 ERA over two home outings before getting knocked around Saturday in a 9-4 loss at Cleveland. The left-hander was tagged for a career-high eight runs before being pulled with one out in the fifth inning.
"Our team needed a better effort and deserved a better effort and I just didn't give it to them," he said. "I'm not here to make excuses. Just a bad day and I didn't get it done and I'll work these next four days and do everything I can to change this."
Sale is now 2-6 with a 6.32 ERA over his last eight road outings dating to July 21. He is 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA over three career relief appearances versus Toronto (6-9).
Sale won't face a starting lineup that includes slugger Jose Bautista, who will miss his fourth straight game due to a sore back. Bautista is batting .200 (7 for 35) with three homers and six RBIs.
"The (doctors) don't think it's that big of a deal," manager John Gibbons said. "I don't want to sound like a broken record because we said that about his ankle, (but we want to) knock it out so it doesn't become an issue."
Leadoff man Rajai Davis will take Bautista's spot in right field.
Bautista's absence was certainly felt in Wednesday's 7-0 loss. Rajai Davis, Edwin Encarnacion and Munenori Kawasaki each had two hits but the rest of the team went 0 for 24.
"We haven't really put it together yet. It's frustrating," said Gibbons, whose team dropped to 3-6 at home. "The guys are trying. It's one of those things, you've just go to fight through it. You can't say it's early anymore, really."
The White Sox, meanwhile, have won three of four on the road after opening 0-5. Tyler Flowers hit a three-run homer and Rios added a solo shot, his team-leading fifth homer of the season.
"The offense was great, Tyler coming through like that, I think it was big for him," manager Robin Ventura said. "When you hit a home run like that, that's a big relief because you know you're helping out."
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