The Little Things: Brandon Dickson

In a season full of big wins, big disappointments, big comebacks and a big World Series Championship, sometimes it is important to take a step back and take a look at a few of the little things that made all of that possible.  This time, we will take a look at right handed pitcher, Brandon Dickson.

The 6ft 5in Brandon Dickson was another in a long line of Cardinals minor leaguers to make their big league debut in 2011.  An impressive showing in Spring Training put his name on the short list of pitchers to be called when needed.  That call came on June 30, just one day after the Cardinals released Ryan Franklin.

At that point in the season, the bullpen was in total disarray.   In addition to Franklin, Miguel Batista had also been released, Brian Tallet had been on and off the disabled list, Trever Miller couldn’t retire a left handed batter and even Maikel Cleto had been called up from AA.   When Ryan Franklin was released on the June 29, the call went down to Memphis and Brandon Dickson soon found his name on the active roster.

July 2 – St. Louis at Tampa

Dickson made his major league debut a few days later, on July 2, in Tampa.   This was one of Kyle McClellan’s last starts, and it had been going fine – until he ran out of gas in the sixth inning.   Tampa had blown the game open with a five run outburst and led 5-1.   There would be no miraculous comeback, but that didn’t mean the game was a total loss.

Trever Miller would enter the game in the seventh with the specific task of retiring a pair of left handed hitters, Reid Brignac and Johnny Damon.  Both singled on line drives that were smoked.  Whatever magic Miller had used against lefties in the past wasn’t working.

Evan Longoria

The call went down to the bullpen and into the game came Brandon Dickson.   Dickson had to face Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Matthew Joyce, if he made it that far.   He did, and he didn’t.

Zobrist sent a chill through Cardinals nation when he lifted a 2-1 Dickson delivery deep into the right field gap.   Jon Jay was able to track it down and make the catch.   That was the first out, but Brignac was able to move up to third base on the play.   Very calmly, Dickson stuck with his game, and that is a sinking fastball low in the strike zone.   It worked out for the young hurler as Evan Longoria grounded into a tailor made around the horn double play.  All of a sudden the inning was over and Dickson could take a moment to reflect on his accomplishment.

But not for too long because he went out again in the eighth inning to face two more batters, Matthew Joyce and BJ Upton.   Joyce grounded out and Upton popped out on the infield.   With the left handed hitting Casey Kotchmann coming up to bat, Dickson’s day was done, but it was a very impressive debut.  1 2/3 innings, no runs, no hits, no walks.   He retired all four men he faced, including an inning ending double play.

July 6 – Cincinnati at St. Louis

If it wasn’t for a depleted bullpen forcing Tony La Russa to use Raul Valdes in the thirteenth inning, this would easily have been the game of the year.   Unfortunately, Valdes would struggle in his lone inning of work, ultimately giving up the winning run on a ground rule double by pinch hitter, Ramon Hernandez.   Buried in all of the excitement of an almost legendary comeback is another fine outing by Brandon Dickson.

To say that Jake Westbrook got off to a rough start in this game is an understatement of galactic proportions.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a pitcher by hit harder and more frequently than Westbrook was in the early going.   The first five batters reached base and all of them scored.  The only Reds player not to hit the ball hard was Joey Votto, who walked.   Four hits including a triple and two home runs gave the Reds and early 5-0 lead.

Two more Reds home runs, one off Westbrook and the other off Trever Miller extended the Cincinnati lead to 8-0.   That brought Brandon Dickson into the game in what first appeared to be a mop up role.   That changed quickly.

Dickson worked a quick sixth inning, getting a pair of strikeouts and a harmless groundout, stranding Chris Heisey who had walked.   That set up the beginning of the comeback.

The Cardinals would score two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on doubles by Ryan Theriot, Tony Cruz and Daniel Descalso.   Another quick inning from Dickson put the Cardinals bats back to work and they knocked Reds starter Bronson Arroyo out of the game, as well as the next reliever, Bill Bray.   Five more runs brought the Cardinals to within a run at 8-7.

Dickson finally ran out of gas in his third inning of work.   With two men on and one out, Jason Motte entered the game and ended the Reds threat by getting Miguel Cairo to hit into a double play.

The Cardinals would eventually tie the game when Jon Jay led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run.  Two scoreless innings from Mitchell Boggs and two more from Fernando Salas took the game into the the thirteenth inning, where Raul Valdes gave up the winning run.

If Dickson does not pitch those 2 1/3 scoreless innings, the comeback falls long short and this is just another meaningless loss.

September 1 – St. Louis at Milwaukee

Brandon Dickson made his last minor league start in Nashville on August 28, but this one was a little bit different than the others.   He knew that he would be among the first batch of September callups and would be starting the game in Milwaukee on September 1.   As a result, he was on a pitch count of 50 and didn’t last too long – just three innings.

As the Milwaukee game time got closer, there was growing belief that Dickson was just a ruse and Chris Carpenter would make the start in this important game.   When the lineup card was handed to the home plate umpire, it still said Brandon Dickson.

For the second time in as many games, Rafael Furcal and Albert Pujols hit solo home runs in the first inning, giving the Cardinals an early lead.

It might as well have been Chris Carpenter on the mound as Brandon Dickson worked through the first two innings very quickly.   A Nyjer Morgan single in the first was erased when Dickson got Ryan Braun to hit into a double play.  Casey McGehee hit a one out double in the second, but was started there when Dickson retired the next two batters.

The Cardinals broke the game open in the third, and it was a leadoff single by Brandon Dickson that started the rally.   It culminated with an Albert Pujols grand slam, giving the Cardinals a 6-0 lead.

Things turned ugly for a moment in the home half of the third inning.  Jonathon Lucroy led off with a solo home run.   After Yovanni Galladro singled, Corey Hart hit a two run homer, cutting the Cardinals lead to 6-3.   That’s when we saw what Brandon Dickson was made of.  Facing the big part of the Brewers batting order, Dickson struck out Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to end the inning, and last Brewers threat of the game.

Dickson would only last another 1/3 of an inning before turning the game over to the bullpen.  Octavio Dotel, Fernando Salas and Jason Motte finished out the game with the win going to Dotel in long relief.   Those three strikeouts in the third inning were the turning point in this game and helped keep the Cardinals on their amazing run of Happy Flights.

Dickson would make one more appearance in 2011, a scoreless inning of relief against the Brewers on September 5.   Three of his four appearances were in losing efforts, but in all four he gave his team exactly what they needed – holding a lead or keeping the score where it was.   Something tells me that we have not heard the last from Brandon Dickson.

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