NEW YORK -- They may not have been held hitless, but flummoxed by the knuckleball, the Cardinals were shut out by the Mets for a second straight game. Saturday's 5-0 loss in front of 27,914 fans at Citi Field dropped St. Louis to 7-15 in its last 22 games.
The team is also 1-4 to start this road trip, which includes four more games.
A night after being no-hit, the Cardinals recorded their first hit since Wednesday when Carlos Beltran led off the second with a double. That would, however, be one of just seven the Cardinals would get off R.A. Dickey, who improved his record to 8-1.
"Any time this offense gets shut out, it's disappointing, because this offense should never get shut out," Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire said. "Last night was very unexpected. Today was probably the course that you would expect facing a knuckleballer.
"I've always said over the years of facing a knuckleballer that it's like trying to catch a butterfly. Sometimes you get it. Sometimes you don't."
At that point, Beltran walked past, noting that he approved of the analogy.
"We didn't catch the butterfly today," Beltran said.
Dickey was masterfully efficient, needing 50 pitches to finish the first five innings. He sealed the fifth shutout of his career with his 100th pitch. On Friday, Johan Santana needed 134 pitches to complete his no-hitter.
"The way that Johan and Dickey are pitching right now, it would be tough to find a team that has two guys throwing the ball better than they are right now," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "That's in either league."
The Cardinals had not previously been on the wrong end of back-to-back nine-inning shutouts from two starters since Pittsburgh's Doug Drabek and Bob Walk went the distance in shutout wins on Sept. 29 and 30, 1990. The last time the team had been held without a run in consecutive games was Aug. 30-31, 2010.
"It's hard to win that way, that's for sure," manager Mike Matheny said of the absent run support. "But this team has the capability, no question. Nobody doubts that. We have an offense that is going to score runs. It's about putting it all together."
The Cardinals' chances were few, but there were opportunities missed. Of the team's seven hits, four were leadoff ones. Two of those were doubles, one from Beltran and the other off the bat of Shane Robinson in the sixth. Both runners were left stranded at third.
Matt Adams grounded into an inning-ending double play to leave Beltran aboard in the second. With runners on the corners in the sixth, Matt Holliday was called out on strikes.
The Cardinals went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Both of those hits didn't leave the infield.
"It's not easy when a knuckleballer has his good knuckleball going like that," second baseman Daniel Descalso said. "We couldn't get that big hit today. We have to do a better job of that today if we want to win ballgames."
St. Louis even threatened in the ninth, putting together their first consecutive hits of the game to open the inning. Again, a double play thwarted any rally effort.
That pushed Dickey's scoreless-innings streak to 17 1/3 innings. He is currently the only Major League pitcher who regularly relies on the knuckleball, making preparation especially difficult for opposing offenses.
"It's not like you can do a whole lot of practicing for this," Matheny said. "He did what he wanted to today."
Dickey became the sixth pitcher to shut out the Cardinals this season. Four of those shutouts have come since May 19. Beginning on that date, the Cardinals have gone from holding a 2.5-game division lead to sitting three behind the now-first-place Reds.
Unlike Dickey, Cardinals starter Lance Lynn labored all afternoon. He limited the Mets to five hits, but also allowed four baserunners to reach via walks. By the time he exited with two out in the fifth, the Cardinals were trailing by three and Lynn's pitch count sat at 105, higher than Dickey's end count.
"Dickey pitched a great game, and I wasn't able to match him," Lynn said. "That's what it comes down to. I have to pitch better than that. I wasn't able to do that today."
While Lynn faced a patient Mets lineup and struggled to establish fastball command, he also lacked a crisp defense behind him. In the middle of the Mets' three-run second inning were fielding flubs by Descalso and Adams on the same play. With the bases full and no out, Descalso bobbled what could have been a key double play.
"Just lost it," Descalso said.
When the out at second was no longer available, he rushed a low throw that Adams didn't cleanly handle at first. Everyone was safe, one run scored, and Adams was charged with an error.
"Those seem to bite you when things are going like this," Matheny said.
One of the runs in the inning was unearned. Had a double play been turned, the deficit would have only been one.
Though it didn't factor into the outcome, Adams made what appeared to be a mental miscue later, too. He failed to cover first base in the fifth, when Holliday tried to complete a double play after making a catch in the outfield. The ball rolled to the home dugout, allowing two runners to advance a base.
The Mets scored an insurance run in the seventh, when, with Dickey up to bat with the bases full and two out, Eduardo Sanchez uncorked a wild pitch. David Wright capped the Mets' offensive afternoon with a homer off reliever Mitchell Boggs in the following frame.
"They have pitched better than us. hey have hit better than us. And they have played better defense than us," Beltran said. "And the result -- you can see it outside."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.