Dickey rebounds to toss significant gem

Dickey rebounds to toss significant gem

Dickey rebounds to toss significant gem
NEW YORK -- Six days earlier, Mets ace Johan Santana had been rocked by the Braves. Five days earlier, R.A. Dickey had his worst outing since joining the team. Two days earlier, the Mets were swept in a doubleheader. One day earlier, starter Mike Pelfrey was placed on the disabled list. Friday's starter at Colorado hasn't been announced.

So, yes, Dickey's start against the Marlins at Citi Field on Wednesday night carried some early significance. This is a Mets team, after all, that was widely written off going into the season. Their confidence is being carefully nurtured.

And the veteran knuckleballer came through, holding the Marlins to one run on three hits through seven innings as New York beat Miami for the second straight game, 5-1.

That came after Dickey allowed eight earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Braves on a rainy night in Georgia.

"Every game is another opportunity to excel at a craft that you really enjoy doing," Dickey said. "The hard thing sometimes is to put bad outings behind you."

Three weeks into the season, the Mets are two games above .500 and 9-5 against National League East competition.

"It's important," said manager Terry Collins. "But one of the things that makes it important is our guys know they can compete. We have a long, hot summer ahead. We're very aware of that. But they have to understand that they can compete in this division, and right now they're seeing it.

"R.A. was outstanding. That might be the best knuckleball I've seen him have in a long time."

So good, in fact, that he used it for 95 of the 100 pitches he threw, far above his usual 80-85 percent -- which was one of the reasons he was able to turn the page so easily after his woes at Turner Field. While he didn't use the sloppy conditions as an excuse, he compared it to trying to throw wet water balloons. That added a degree of difficulty to a pitch that can be fickle in the first place.

"I think I just sometimes identify with the pitch. The knuckleball can be tough," he said. "Other times I've had bad outings, it just comes with experience. [Because] that does not define you and that you're capable of doing something greater than what you showed in your bad outing, you trust that, or try to trust that in the moment. And fortunately I was able to do that. I knew that I had a good knuckleball and I was going to make them hit it."

But not hit it hard. Dickey retired 13 of the first 14 Marlins batters he faced. The only Miami baserunner during that stretch was left fielder Logan Morrison, who singled off the glove of a diving David Wright at third.

After a small hiccup -- Omar Infante homered with one out in the fifth, and Gaby Sanchez followed with a double -- Dickey settled down and didn't allow another hit in his seven innings.

In all, only three runners got past first base against him, and one of those was the result of an error.

"Our starting pitching is pretty good," Collins said. "It's going to keep us in games."

Immediately following a terrific rebound performance by Santana, Dickey's outing helped right the ship. And it's clear how important the game was to keep a small stumble from turning into an extended slump.

Players don't look at single games that way, of course, and not just because it does them no good to put additional pressure on themselves.

"I don't think it's extra important," Dickey said. "That would signify it's less important other nights. And it's not. To go out there and give your team a chance to win every night is what every pitcher on the staff wants to do. In our viewpoint, every game carries the same amount of weight. It does mean a lot, but it means a lot every game."

Dickey did concede that the win was meaningful from the team's standpoint.

"It's encouraging to beat a good ballclub. That's a good team over there," he said. "They're going to start hitting. They've got a great lineup. We're in a tough division, so any time you win a game, whether it's by one run or five runs, against a team like that, it's nice."

The Braves ended Dickey's streak of consecutive quality starts at 14. That left him with only one thing to do. And he did it. His new streak is one and counting.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.