video thumbnail

NYM@ATL: Dickey gives up one run in 7 2/3 innings

ATLANTA -- After rapping 20 hits in a 12-2 series-opening victory over the Braves on Friday night, the Mets could manage just four on Saturday.

The hard-luck victim of the lack of support was knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who came up just short in a classic pitching duel with Tim Hudson.

Chipper Jones -- a thorn in the Mets' side throughout his career -- singled in the tie-breaking run with two outs in the eighth inning after two walks, and the Braves won, 1-0.

"It sure is painful," Dickey said. "I threw a good knuckleball to Chipper, and he did what a Hall of Famer does."

Jones' hard grounder shot by Dickey and up the middle into center field.

"I almost got it," Dickey said. "I just couldn't get my glove down on it. It was a really good knuckleball he hit."

Dickey (8-13) went into the game with 10 straight quality starts in which he had posted a 2.73 ERA despite just a 4-4 record. He was at his best through seven innings against the Braves, allowing just two hits. But his luck didn't change.

Jason Heyward walked to lead off the eighth inning, was sacrificed to second and moved to third on a groundout, second baseman Ruben Tejada making a nice play. Martin Prado walked on a 3-2 pitch, bringing up Jones.

Manager Terry Collins could have intentionally walked Jones, who had doubled off Dickey in the seventh. Dan Uggla, up next, had never recorded a hit against the knuckleballer.

"We thought about it," Collins said about putting Jones on, but he didn't want a bases-loaded situation, as Dickey had already walked two in the inning.

"With a knuckleball, there isn't much margin for error, especially when it is moving as much as mine was today," said Dickey, who ended with six walks.

Jones worked the count to 2-2, and then his single to put his team ahead.

"I needed to center that last ball to get it past him, because he was in a good fielding position," Jones said. "It was hit just hard enough to get under his glove."

Hudson (15-10) allowed four hits in eight scoreless innings, striking out 10 and walking two. Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth for his 45th save.

"Hudson was outstanding today. Outstanding," Collins said. "He commanded all his pitches on both sides of the plate. That was a well-pitched game by both teams."

"It was tough out there today," Jones said, citing the late-afternoon start. "The only thing worse than facing a knuckleballer is facing one in the shadows. He was really good today. He had that thing fluttering all over the place. ... Luckily, we got a couple of walks there in the eighth and one hit."

After Prado, who had been 1-for-14 against Dickey, singled with one out in the first inning, the knuckleballer didn't allow another hit until Jones doubled leading off the seventh.

Dickey got Uggla to bounce out and Brian McCann to fly out to right field, Jones advancing to third base. Freddie Freeman was then walked intentionally, and Alex Gonzalez bounced into a fielder's choice to keep the game scoreless.

McCann had walked leading off the second inning before being wiped out by a double play, and Freeman didn't make it past first base after drawing a one-out walk in the fifth.

Dickey got some defensive help in the sixth, when Jason Bay dived to rob Hudson of a likely extra-base hit.

The Mets couldn't take advantage of a break in the top of the seventh inning. Lucas Duda led off with a single, and the Braves believed they were out of the inning when Nick Evans appeared to have grounded into a one-out double play. But umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that shortstop Gonzalez, who fielded the ball, did not tag second base before throwing to first.

Josh Thole walked and Tejada worked a full count. But after staying alive on a foul tip that catcher McCann couldn't hold, Tejada struck out.

Hudson had given up 10 runs in 12 innings while losing his previous two starts and was 1-3 with a 5.06 ERA in four prior outings against the Mets this season. But he reverted to form with the Braves' Wild Card lead in the National League shrunk.

After Hudson retired the first six Mets, Thole and Tejada singled to start the third inning, but Dickey couldn't get down a sacrifice bunt, and Jose Reyes hit into a double play.

Tejada hit a second single to lead off the sixth inning, and the Mets had two on again after Reyes drew Hudson's first walk of the game with one out. But Angel Pagan flied out to left field, with Prado making a nice catch, and David Wright bounced into a forceout.

Dickey worked with Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro before the 2009 season, and the former Braves standout was in attendance on Saturday and gave his student some words of encouragement after the hard-luck loss.

"He saw me sitting there kind of ruminating over the loss, and he offered some words of encouragement," Dickey said. "I appreciated it."

But not even Niekro could take away the pain. Comments