Bats come up empty against Dickey
Cards held to four hits, end road trip with shutout loss
NEW YORK -- A frustrating road trip for the Cardinals ended with a perfunctory loss. R.A. Dickey shut down the Redbirds offense while Blake Hawksworth never really got going, and the Cards fell to the Mets, 4-0, at Citi Field on Thursday.
It was the 10th time that St. Louis has been shut out this year, with nine of those coming on the road.
St. Louis finished a six-game road trip with a 2-4 record, taking both wins in extra innings. On Thursday, the Cards went quietly, managing four base hits against the Mets knuckleballer. St. Louis put pressure on Dickey in the ninth, forcing New York to turn to closer Francisco Rodriguez, but through eight innings, Dickey had faced two batters over the minimum.
Four baserunners were erased on double plays as Dickey induced 17 outs on the ground.
"He was on today," said Jon Jay, the only Cardinal who reached base twice. "His knuckleball, it was anywhere from 72 to 83 [mph]. He did a heck of a job keeping us off balance. He pitched a heck of a game today."
A day after the Cardinals jumped all over former Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, they could do absolutely nothing against Dickey. Not that they're alone in that, as Dickey has been the Mets' best starter for much of the season. Reinvented as a knuckleballer in his 30s, Dickey has been a revelation for the Mets.
"I think any time you face a knuckleballer, it's a different challenge, because you don't see a lot of them," said Ryan Ludwick. "He had good movement on the ball and every once in a while, you'd think you'd square it up and it would have late movement. He threw a lot of strikes with it."
Meanwhile, Hawksworth wasn't terrible, but wasn't especially effective, either. He allowed seven hits and three walks in six innings, including a mammoth three-run homer by Ike Davis in the third. Hawksworth had trouble getting the ball on the ground, and paid for it when Davis went deep.
Hawksworth threw a first-pitch changeup to Davis that was higher and more over the plate than he intended, and it left the yard.
"I was kind of set in the middle of fastball/changeup, just because all I needed to do there was hit a fly ball and get a run in," Davis said. "I kind of just set it up, and I wanted to make sure I stayed through it and not roll it over and hit a fly ball to center field."
Hawksworth considered Thursday's outing a step forward after a rough one in Chicago over the weekend, but the fact remains that he's allowed at least four runs in three straight starts. He was excellent in his first four starts upon being moved into the rotation, but things have been more difficult lately.
"I threw a few [changeups] to [Davis] the first at-bat I faced him," Hawksworth said. "It just stayed up a little bit and he put a good swing on it. Just one mistake. If I could have that pitch back, I'd love to. But I threw it with the right mindset, and that's all I can do. Sometimes they make you pay for it."
The second-year right-hander worked in more curveballs on Thursday than in some recent starts, but still leaned heavily on a fastball-changeup combination in the early going. It's possible that as more scouting and video gets out on Hawksworth, the two-pitch bread-and-butter approach may need to expand.
"It's one of my strengths with guys on," Hawksworth said of his changeup. "We got [Carlos] Beltran to fly out with one. It was feeling good today. I'm sure he was looking for something out over the plate, especially with guys on. He's got kind of a long swing, and it stayed in his wheelhouse and he crushed it."
The Cardinals have lost five out of seven since an eight-game win streak, and they have dropped 16 of their last 24 road games. St. Louis has not had a winning road trip since its first trip of the season, when it went 4-2 in Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The Cards trail the Reds by a half-game in the National League Central.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.