Commentary

Perfect no more: Dickey's run ends

Mets knuckleballer suffers first loss at hands of Marlins in Puerto Rico

Updated: June 29, 2010, 2:34 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- R.A. Dickey was deemed worthy of teaching Prince Harry a thing or two about pitching Saturday. Or at least about throwing a ceremonial first pitch.

But the knuckleballer isn't perfect.

No longer, anyway.

Despite a pair of homers by Jason Bay, Dickey suffered his first defeat after six straight wins to open his New York Mets career as the Florida Marlins won 10-3 on Monday at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

Coming off eight scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers -- when he easily could have tossed a shutout had manager Jerry Manuel not wanted to get Francisco Rodriguez work in the ninth inning -- Dickey allowed five runs in five innings against Florida. It was the most runs allowed by Dickey since his season opener for Triple-A Buffalo against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on April 9, when he surrendered six runs (four earned) and failed to complete six innings for the only other time this season.

"I think I gave up -- what -- five hits in one inning and no hits in the others?" Dickey said. "And even if you break down that inning: one base hit, an infield single off [Jose] Reyes' glove. ... I had a decent knuckleball. Sometimes that's the way the ball bounces -- literally."

Bay accounted for the entire offense, driving in the Mets' three runs with his pair of long balls against Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco. Despite having six homers this season, Bay has curiously hit them in bunches. He has a pair of two-homer games, the other coming May 23 against the Yankees at Citi Field, when he twice took CC Sabathia deep.

"I think the odd coincidence is last time I was here -- you guys would have to double-check this for me -- but I think I hit two home runs in a game, too," said Bay, who accurately recalled twice going deep off Montreal Expos reliever Sun-Woo Kim on July 9, 2004, as a Pittsburgh Pirate in San Juan.

Bay's second homer pulled the Mets within 6-3 in the seventh, but they got no closer. Fernando Nieve surrendered a solo homer a half-inning later to Chris Coghlan as Florida expanded its lead to four runs. Ryota Igarashi then allowed a three-run homer to slumping Marlins rookie Mike Stanton in the eighth to turn the game into a rout.

[+] EnlargeR.A. Dickey
Al Bello/Getty ImagesR.A. Dickey wasn't helped by his defense in Monday's loss to the Marlins.

The Mets' bullpen had allowed one run over its past 26 1/3 innings entering Monday night -- on a solo homer Saturday by Minnesota's Jason Kubel off Nieve.

Nieve surrendered two more solo homers in the series opener against the Marlins, by Cody Ross in the sixth and then to Coghlan.

"That's a surprise to me as well," Manuel said about the homer flurry allowed by Nieve. "Those are things we'll have to look at. ... Those are roles to hold the opposition and give us a chance to click. And, unfortunately, that didn't happen."

On a night Puerto Ricans could celebrate playing regular-season Major League Baseball on the island for the first time since 2004, when the Montreal Expos adopted the place part time, the Mets had little to celebrate. Even second baseman Ruben Tejada's 10-game hitting streak, which matched San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey's streak for the longest in the majors this season by a rookie, came to an end.

Dickey could have received more help from Reyes at shortstop when the game was still being contested.

Reyes was charged with only one error, but he legitimately committed two.

In the first inning, cheating in on the artificial turf at Hiram Bithorn Stadium with one out and Coghlan at third base, Reyes missed Hanley Ramirez's routine grounder to his backhand for an error as Florida took a 1-0 lead.

Two innings later, after the Marlins opened the third inning with four straight hits and had taken a 4-1 lead, Dickey was poised to get out of the frame with no further damage. But with Ramirez on second and two out, Reyes missed Ross' grounder to the glove side. The official scorer generously awarded Ross a hit on the makeable play, which allowed Ramirez to score as the ball scooted into the outfield.

Manuel explained that the surface being all artificial turf -- with dirt cutouts only immediately surrounding the bases, and not where Reyes was positioned -- made for a quicker surface than the shortstop is accustomed to.

"The hops and those types of things, you can try to mimic those things in batting practice, but it's not the same once the game starts," Manuel said. "I think that had a lot more to do with his miscues than anything else. There's nothing wrong with it. It's just sometimes it's a little quicker. And when you're playing on dirt, despite how hard the surface is, you feel a little more comfortable. Back in my day I felt a little more comfortable with this type of surface than I did on dirt, but for him, he didn't seem too comfortable here."

Manuel suggested the Mets maybe didn't handle all the hoopla around them ideally.

"I do think there was a lot of activity," Manuel said, alluding to things like the loud music, even with balls in play. "But to be a good team, you still have to remain somewhat in character regardless of what the activity is surrounding you. These are different tests in going forward in trying to establish that whatever happens, we're still going to play good baseball. We didn't do that tonight."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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