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NYY@TOR: Dickey shines over 6 2/3 shutout frames

The Blue Jays will send ace R.A. Dickey to the mound looking for their first sweep of the season on Thursday night as they close out a three-game set with the Astros at Rogers Centre.

Houston won its first series of the season, two games to one, against the Yankees, but dropped three in a four-game series against the Angels last weekend.

Dickey will take the ball a day earlier than expected after manager John Gibbons decided to push back No. 5 starter Dustin McGowan, who will start the series opener in Baltimore on Friday.

The move was intended to break up back-to-back power arms in the Blue Jays' rotation, slotting Dickey in between McGowan and right-hander Brandon Morrow, who struck out nine for the win on Wednesday.

"They're the two guys we're watching a little bit," said Gibbons. "You put Dickey in the middle of them and he can eat some innings."

In his last outing, Dickey was lights out. His knuckleball reached speeds in the upper 70s to low 80s in 6 2/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts against the Yankees. He hadn't been able to find those speeds in his first start of the year against the Rays.

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will start for the Astros. He gave up four runs on eight hits in a five-inning performance vs. the Angels on Saturday. Despite the loss, Keuchel felt he delivered solid performance.

"This is the best I've felt so far," said Keuchel, who was 1-0 in two games against Toronto last season. "My body was strong and well. Working out of traffic the first few innings took a lot out of me. I've been doing a little better job longevity wise."

Blue Jays: Izturis continues hot streak
Second baseman Maicer Izturis went 2-for-3 in the Blue Jays' 7-3 win over the Astros on Wednesday night. He now has multiple hits in five of seven games, and is hitting .455 (10-for-22). The 33-year-old batted second in the Blue Jays' lineup.

Manager John Gibbons indicated he'll give Izturis an extended look at the two-hole while Jose Reyes is on the 15-day disabled list.

"He's always been able to hit," Gibbons said. "His whole career, he's been a good, solid Major League player. He's hot right now, so we have to ride it while it lasts. He's a good baseball player."

Izturis began the season in a platoon role with second baseman Ryan Goins and typically found himself at the bottom of the lineup. It's possible that could be changing because of Izturis' early results at the plate and the fact that Toronto is still looking for an offensive spark.

Astros: Fowler returns to regular duties
Center fielder Dexter Fowler returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday after missing the previous five starts due to a stomach illness.

Houston's leadoff man pinch-hit in Tuesday's 5-2 loss, but saw a full nine innings on Wednesday for the first time since April 3. He went 1-for-3 with one run scored. Fowler is now batting a team-best .438 (7-for-16).

"I'm not at 100 percent, but I'm ready to play," Fowler said prior to Wednesday's game. "It's awesome to be back on the field, that's all you can ask for. That's what you're out here for, not to be sitting there sick."

The 28-year old, acquired in an offseason deal with the Rockies, isn't worried that the layoff will disrupt his timing at the plate. Neither is manager Bo Porter.

"I think he's fine. Even [Tuesday] after he finished in the cage ... he was itching to get back in there," Porter said. "He came in [Wednesday] and said he is holding down food and there should be no restrictions."

Worth noting
• With his stolen base in the seventh inning on Wednesday, Dioner Navarro swiped a bag for the first time since Sept. 7, 2009. Navarro sprung for second when Brett Lawrie swung and missed on a hit-and-run attempt.

• Lawrie's two-run homer in the seventh inning on Wednesday was his first of the season. Lawrie has struggled at the plate so far, hitting .121 (4-for-33) through eight games.

• Marc Krauss' single in the fifth inning was the first hit of the season for the Astros first baseman, snapping an 0-for-15 streak. With his single in the fourth inning, catcher Jason Castro snapped an 0-for-12 skid.

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