LOS ANGELES, Calif. A perfect storm of unfriendly constitution blew into Dodger Stadium Saturday night, whisking away a struggling offenses ability to right itself amidst the ineffective cacophony of flailing bats and battered hope. R.A. Dickey, now two starts removed from back-to-back one hitters, allowed three hits over eight scoreless innings and struck out 10 batters while winning his Major League-leading 12th game as part of a 9-0 victory over the injury-depleted Dodgers Friday night.
Every team goes through little ruts here and there, Dickey said before the series opener. Weve certainly been through our own, and I certainly know that weve been swept, and then weve turned around and swept people. So theyre not to be taken lightly by any stretch of the imagination, regardless of whos in the lineup.
For Los Angeles, Dickey was probably the pitcher in the National League theyd be least encouraged to face with one win in their 10 previous games entering Fridays action and with one homerun in their last 15 games following their fourth shutout in five games. Theyve lost six in a row.
The Dodgers have been held scoreless in 47 of their last 48 innings at the plate, their lone success coming on an Elian Herrera RBI triple and Juan Rivera RBI single that accounted for all of their scoring in a 3-2 loss to the Mets Thursday night.
The question at this point is what effect Dickeys mastery will have on a Dodger team setting new lows for offensive futility. If it has been suggested at times that facing a knuckleballer can throw off a hitters mechanics and comfort at the plate, could this serve as a double negative? Could the L.A. offense be shocked into production?
I dont know if theres ever a good time, really, manager Don Mattingly said about facing a knuckleballer. With a guy like him, obviously were not the only club at this point hes given trouble to. For us not really seeing him, To me, if youre in the east, and you see this guy three, four times, maybe you could come up with a little better game plan, how you want to deal with him. Its tough to kind of look at tape and say, how are we going to attack this guy? and know what youre dealing with.
Dickeys knuckleball is thrown with a greater velocity than that of previous major league knuckleballers. Sitting in the mid-to-upper 70s and often reaching the low 80s, Dickey has the ability to change up speeds with the pitch. On Thursday, he said the lowest the pitch had ever been clocked was at 59 miles per hour, and that hes received plenty of advice from former major league knuckleballers Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield and Tom Candiotti.
That may be a difference between me and the Jedi counsel of knuckleballers, well say, Dickey said of the extra velocity on his pitch. Those guys who have poured into me in a real generous way have all taught me something that Ive been able to use. Everybodys got a very unique personality, and part of my personality with the pitch is that I throw it a little bit harder. So Ive tried to work off that and figure out whats comfortable as far as being able to throw strikes with it and working off that pitch. Its worked out well, and well just keep rolling with it.
Rolling with it, he has. Bouncing back from a six-inning, five-run outing against a potent New York Yankees lineup on national television last Sunday, Dickey continued to dominate opposing batters to the tune of a 12-1 record and a 2.15 ERA. Its success that he anticipated prior to the start of the season.
I tell people all the time I have a pretty big imagination, so I visualize myself with this pitch being successful. Now, to what degree? That may have taken me by surprise somewhat. But I feel like Im not doing anything differently than I have the past couple of years, he said.
With an All-Star appearance a certainty, will Tony LaRussa choose him as the National Leagues starter come July 10 at Kansas Citys Kauffman Stadium?
I think every little boy imagines playing in an All Star Game, so in that regard, it would be a real honor, obviously. I mean, thats the clich, Dickey said.
I think, more than that, it would give a real legitimacy to what I do as a knuckleball pitcher. I think there are camps of people out there who dont view it as a very legitimate thing. A gimmicky thing, if you will. And I think if Im fortunate enough to make the All-Star Team, it would give some legitimacy, I think.
That was of little concern to the Dodgers, whose lineup had difficulty going deep in counts or getting any type of rhythm going until perhaps the eighth inning. Dickey didnt throw more than 17 pitches in any inning against L.A.
Usually when youre getting to a guy like that, you can get in some counts where hes having trouble throwing the ball over the plate, Mattingly said. Usually when those guys get it over, theyre pretty good, and tonight he didnt really walk anybody.
We didnt really do much with him.