NEW YORK -- For the second straight year, a Mets season marred by injuries and an early exit from playoff contention has been at least slightly mitigated by starting pitcher R.A. Dickey.
In his final start of the season Saturday, the knuckleballer completed his outstanding second half against the Philadelphia Phillies, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a 2-1 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Citi Field.
Perhaps fittingly, Dickey did not pick up the win in his 12th consecutive quality start -- the result of an equally stellar performance from Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels. During Dickey's quality start streak he's gone just 4-5 despite posting a stingy 2.45 ERA.
"It really is amazing," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "His job isn't really to win games, it's to give his team a chance to win games, and that's what he's done. That's exactly who he is and what he stands for."
After being taken out after seven innings, Dickey was actually in line for the loss against Hamels, who allowed four hits and struck out seven in seven innings. Pinch-hitter Valentino Pascucci took Dickey off the hook with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when he blasted his first homer of the season about 10 rows deep in left field. The game-tying solo shot was Pascucci's first Major League home run since Oct. 2., 2004, when he went deep off Al Leiter at Shea Stadium while a member of the Expos.
David Wright then put the Mets ahead in the bottom of the eighth with a go-ahead double down the third-base line off reliever Brad Lidge. The hit scored Ruben Tejada, who had singled up the middle and stolen his fifth base of the season.
"It was a great feeling for me," Pascucci said. "I went out there trying to be aggressive, and good things happened."
"It was a fastball down and in," Hamels said. "I'm trying to throw strikes. I don't know what to say. It was in the location I wanted. From the angle I had, it was on the corner. I threw him a strike and he hit ... it out."
Dickey's knuckleball was on point from the beginning, notably when its bottom dropped out to get Shane Victorino swinging to end the first inning for the second of Dickey's four strikeouts. He was perfect through five innings before issuing a leadoff walk to Carlos Ruiz, and it seemed like Dickey might be destined to throw the first no-hitter in Mets history after an impressive defensively play by Nick Evans later in the sixth.
With two outs, Jimmy Rollins hit a line drive to right field over Evans' head, but Evans was able to catch up to the ball, turn around and make a stumbling catch as he fell to the ground.
"When Nick made that catch in right, I had the type of knuckleball today where I thought I might have a chance," Dickey said. "And I don't often say that, but I thought I had a chance."
"I had no idea, I just prayed," Evans said when asked if he thought he had a chance on the ball coming off the bat. "Nobody wants to be the guy that gives up the hit in the no-hitter."
Victorino ended the no-hit bid with one out in the seventh on a line drive to left field before Ryan Howard busted Dickey's shutout with a run-scoring single through the middle to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. After giving up another single to Raul Ibanez, Dickey got John Mayberry to ground into an inning-ending double play before coming out of the game. Dickey left having allowed four hits and one walk.
Though the Mets have gone just 15-17 in Dickey's 32 starts, his 3.28 ERA in 2011 is more than a full point better than that of any other Mets starter this season. With an 8-13 record, no pitcher in the National League has both a lower ERA than Dickey and a worse winning percentage.
"My whole hope since the beginning of the season, since the beginning of being a knuckleballer, is 'Can I be a trustworthy product?'" Dickey said. "I think over the course of the last two seasons, I think people may start to hopefully quit saying, 'When's the other shoe going to drop?'"
"Hopefully, they can embrace that this is who I am. I know I certainly have. We'll see where that ends up."
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.