R.A. Dickey became the second straight knuckleballer to baffle the NL champs, shaking off an early line drive that hit him on his non-pitching elbow to lead the New York Mets to an 8-0 victory Tuesday night.
Two days after 43-year-old Boston knuckler Tim Wakefield tossed eight scoreless innings to beat Philadelphia 8-3, Dickey shut down the powerful Phillies for his first major league win since April 10, 2009, with Minnesota against the Chicago White Sox.
"You are used to guys who have everyday stuff, but it's very rare that you see a knuckleballer. Two in a row is even rarer -- like Halley's Comet," Howard said. "Tomorrow we get a regular pitcher and try to right the ship."
Jose Reyes had three hits and scored three times. He also stole two bases.
"I've been feeling very good in my legs the last two or three weeks," Reyes said. "That's a big part of my game."
Called up from Triple-A Buffalo last Wednesday to replace an ineffective Oliver Perez in New York's unstable rotation, Dickey (1-0) escaped three bases-loaded jams in the first three innings.
The 35-year-old right-hander allowed seven singles in six innings and struck out seven, matching his career high. He walked three.
"I feel like I'm 27 in knuckleball years because I started throwing it in '05," said Dickey, who had his wife and three kids in the stands. "It's been a nice journey for me with this pitch."
Dickey was hit on the left elbow by Howard's line-drive single to start the second. Mets manager Jerry Manuel and a trainer came out to check on Dickey, who threw three warmup pitches and remained in the game.
The next inning, the Mets announced that X-rays on Dickey's elbow were negative and he would be monitored closely throughout the game for pain and swelling.
"When he got to the mound I couldn't feel my hand and that was a little scary," Dickey said, adding that the sensation began to return to his left hand a couple of batters later.
After taking two of three from the crosstown rival Yankees last weekend in an exciting Subway Series, the Mets (23-23) played a crisp game on both offense and defense that was easily one of their best all-around efforts this season.
Reyes created runs with his speed and New York excelled at situational hitting, putting the ball in play and moving runners along against 47-year-old soft-tosser Jamie Moyer (5-4).
"A couple of old men," Dickey said. "I think I would've caught a lot of flak from my teammates if he threw a fastball harder than I did."
The Mets have won three straight games against last year's two World Series teams -- and four out of five overall since dropping seven of eight.
"Hopefully, tonight's a good sign for us," Francoeur said. "We have to do that. We're not going to slug home runs every night."
Before batting practice, manager Charlie Manuel said he thought facing Wakefield in their previous game could be a benefit to the Phillies against Dickey.
Not at all.
Despite a lineup featuring five players who were the leading vote-getters at their positions when the initial NL All-Star tallies were released Tuesday, Philadelphia stranded 13 runners.
"We got outplayed, we got outhustled," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We can go through stretches, but tonight especially we could play with more enthusiasm. We're playing bad right now."
Dickey has been on a roll going back to last month in the minors, when he retired 27 straight batters following a leadoff single in Buffalo's 4-0 win over Durham on April 29.
He has been tutored by Wakefield in the past and spoke with his knuckleball buddy Tuesday about his splendid outing against first-place Philadelphia.
The two-time defending NL champions have lost three straight -- including a near no-hitter by Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka on Saturday night.
"We've got to come out with more resilience than this," Charlie Manuel said.
Raul Valdes worked three innings for his first major league save and even drove a double over Jayson Werth's head in right for his first career RBI. The lefty reliever is 4 for 7 at the plate this season, his first in the big leagues.
"Can't say enough about that guy," Francoeur said. "He never smiles. Hits a double and looks like he's supposed to do it. ... If we were in St. Louis, I'd be batting ninth and he'd be batting eighth."
Reyes' first-inning single was his 1,000th career hit. ... The Phillies leading at their positions in fan balloting for the All-Star game are Utley at second base (the leading vote-getter overall), Placido Polanco at third, Werth and Shane Victorino in the outfield, and injured shortstop Jimmy Rollins.