Originally written on MetsZilla  |  Last updated 6/8/12

Having lost three consecutive games — including two straight to the N.L. East leading Washington Nationals — the New York Mets played their biggest game to this point in the season and as close to a must-win game as there can be in June.  Trying to avoid a sweep, NY sent their co-ace, R.A. Dickey to the mound and the 37-year-old knuckleballer rose to the occasion.

Dickey baffled the Nats on Thursday afternoon, limiting them to just four hits while striking out eight over 7 1/3 scoreless inning en route to his Major League best ninth victory of the season:

R.A. was near un-hittable, retiring the first five batters in-a-row and 12 of the first 13 batters he faced.  The Nationals failed to move a runner past second base (while Dickey was on the mound) and had their only rally against him thwarted with an inning ending double play. After Adam LaRoche worked an 11-pitch walk to place runners on first and second with no-outs. R.A. got Michael Morse to ground into a fielders choice before inducing Ian Desmond to hit into a 5-5-3 inning ending double play.

Following the victory, Dickey spoke with reporters, saying:

I feel comfortable with where I am with the [knuckle ball]. There have been times in my career with the knuckleball, especially since I’ve been with the Mets, where I felt like I’ve been in a pretty good groove with it. But I haven’t been able to do some things that I’ve wanted to do. Now, recently. I feel like I have had some more weapons at my disposal. But it’s come with a lot of hard work.”

Seriously. The 37-year-old right hander has been simply amazing this season.  The victory was his career-best seventh in-a-row and his 7 1/3 shutout innings extended his career best scoreless-inning streak to 24 2/3 innings; one out shy of Gio Gonzalez‘s MLB best 25 scoreless-inning streak from earlier in the season. His 24 2/3 scoreless innings is the longest such stretch since Mike Pelfrey‘s 27 straight score-less innings in 2010.  The knuckleballer is now  just seven innings away from tying Jerry Koosman’s franchise record 31 2/3 scoreless-innings.

“He has the best command of the knuckleball of anybody I’ve seen,” Mets manager Terry Collins said about Dickey, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.  “And I’ve seen [Tim]Wakefield and [Steve] Sparks and Dennis Springer, Charlie Hough. He’s got the best one. And today’s was the hardest one I’ve seen him have in quite a while.”

What an amazing story.  He is quickly rising atop my favorite All-Time Mets list with every dancing knuckler and incredible post game presser. Not to mention, he has an awesome beard.  The guy looks more like a guy you could find in a lumber jack competition than a Major League baseball field, and he has been – in my opinion – one of the better pitchers in MLB this season; making a strong case for not only a spot on this year’s NL All-Star roster but to be the game’s starter. Over the last two seasons, R.A. has proven this is no fluke, solidifying  himself as a top of the rotation starter and legitimate staff  ‘ace.’   Since June of 2011, the knuckleballer is 14-8 with a 2.72 ERA; the sixth lowest in the National League over that span.  As Jay stated earlier in the week:

The conversation is changing in Mets land and it’s nice to be talking about batting titles, Cy Young awards and pennant races instead of trade partners, departed stars and lost seasons.  Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey are as responsible as any players on this team for seeing the team’s culture change and regardless of whether or not they win a Cy Young award at the end of the year they have fans believing that no matter who the opponent is, when our aces are on the mound, anything is possible.”

 

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