Commentary

Dickey, improbably, keeps getting better

The knuckleballer is now 6-0 in his first seven starts, after shutting out the Tigers

Updated: June 24, 2010, 12:46 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- This is ri-Dickey-lous.

Really?

A shutout.

Another gem.

Another win.

R.A. Dickey did it again. This time, the knuckle-balling right-hander gave up no runs on four hits in eight innings, giving the New York Mets a 5-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers in front of 35,045 at Citi Field on Wednesday night.

[+] EnlargeR.A. Dickey
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesWithout Dickey, where would the Mets be?

Dickey has gone from the outhouse of basically sitting out of the majors for two years to the penthouse of stardom overnight. He is now 6-0, and lowered his ERA to a stingy 2.33.

You can't overstate how important Dickey's arrival has been to the Mets. In movie terms, Dickey has been King Kong, and the Mets Fay Wray. It wasn't long ago the Mets' rotation was torn and tattered, with John Maine hurt and Oliver Perez pitching poorly.

Indeed, Dickey has come to the rescue. For Mets fans, it must feel like a dream come true, but not for Dickey.

"I feel like this is something I've been capable of doing," said Dickey, who has now allowed two or fewer runs in five of his seven starts. "I felt like if I put in the hard work and committed to the journey of what it takes to do what I do that eventually it was going to yield some fruit.

"I'm excited it's yielded this ripe of fruit, we can say. But it doesn't feel like a dream. It feels like I'm coming to work, putting in the time and doing what I need to be successful."

At one point in his career, Dickey, 35, started just one big-league game in two seasons (2006-2007). But here, Dickey -- who once tied the major-league record of allowing six homers in a game -- has taken his new lease on life and run with it.

Dickey is the first Mets pitcher to go 6-0 in his first seven starts with the team. Prior to this season, Dickey struck out six or more batters eight times in 144 games. This season, he has at least six strikeouts in three of his seven starts. "I think I can make adjustments a lot more easily now than I ever have before," Dickey said.

In a magical season -- and the Mets are in the middle of one right now -- you usually get a player to come out of nowhere and do the unexpected. The Mets have their guy. Manager Jerry Manuel wasn't exactly sure when they called Dickey up.

"To be honest with you, when they made the call and said he's the hot guy, I was a little concerned," said Manuel, who was impressed by Dickey in spring training.

Manuel later added, "On a scale of 1-10, I'd give him a 9.8. R.A. has been very, very impressive. Very impressive."

This is no longer a fluke. The Tigers (38-32) aren't some American League doormat, without a potent lineup.

Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera are one of the most productive 3-4 hitting combos in the majors. Against Dickey, they were just 2-for-8.

"He has two knuckleballs -- a hard one and a soft one," said the Tigers' rookie left fielder Brennan Boesch, who was 0-3 with a walk.

When asked if both were hard to hit, Boesch said, "Yes."

He wasn't alone in feeling that way. In this game, the only trouble Dickey ran into was in the first inning. The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs, but Dickey got Carlos Guillen to ground out to second base to end the inning.

Dickey's numbers are outstanding, especially when he's in a jam. Opponents are now 1-for-10 (.100) against Dickey with the bases loaded this season. The Tigers were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position -- overall, opponents are just 9-for-45 in that situation against Dickey, for a paltry .200 batting average.

Dickey had every right to want to pitch a complete-game shutout. It just doesn't happen that often in a pitcher's career. But in this case, Manuel wanted to get his closer, Francisco Rodriguez, some work, and allowed Rodriguez to pitch the ninth and finish Dickey's gem.

"I had the right to be excited to go back out there for the ninth inning," Dickey said. "But, again, it's OK.

"I tried to talk [Manuel into leaving me in], but I was unsuccessful. He sensed that I wanted to go in there. But he was adamant, having a plan and you got to respect that."

The same way you now have to respect Dickey. His knuckleball isn't cute anymore. It's ridiculous. Kind of like the opening of this column.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com

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