|New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey acknowledges the crowd as he exits during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Sunday, May 27, 2012, at Citi Field in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)|
Padres befuddled by Dickey's knuckleball in loss
NEW YORK—San Diego Padres manager Bud Black took away one positive thing from facing R.A. Dickey.
"I know that it's not going to be a problem tomorrow," Black said of Dickey's knuckleball.
Dickey struck out 10 and reached double digits for strikeouts in consecutive games for the first time in his career and the New York Mets held the punchless Padres scoreless for the second straight day with a 2-0 win Sunday.
Dickey (7-1) struck out 11 Pirates on Tuesday. He is the first Mets pitcher to have back-to-back games with at least 10 Ks since Pedro Martinez did it in May 2006.
"He had the knuckleball going today," Padres catcher Nick Hundley said. "You could see how tough it was for Mike (Nickeas) to catch it."
After winning the opener of the series by scoring a season-high 11 runs, the Padres fizzled at the plate. In the final three games they had only one run -- 26 straight scoreless innings -- and 11 hits. With 13 players on the disabled list and outfielder Cameron Maybin sidelined since Saturday with a sore wrist, San Diego has lost six of seven on its 10-game road trip.
But the Padres might be getting some help Monday in Chicago. Black said before the game that slugger Carlos Quentin could join the team for the series against the Cubs. Afterward, he said there will likely be a roster move Monday. Quentin has been out all season after having knee surgery in mid-March.
New York won three of four over San Diego to move six games over .500 for the first time since July 18, 2010. Starting Monday, the Mets will play eight straight series against teams with records over .500 entering Sunday.
"When you play these teams you raise your level," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We got to pick our game up. There's no doubt about it. But if we continue to pitch, we'll be in some games."
In this game they pitched exceptionally well. Tim Byrdak got two outs to finish the eighth and Frank Francisco pitched the ninth for his 13th save in 15 chances. The Mets shut out the Nationals last season on May 18 and 19, both joint efforts.
Daniel Murphy had an RBI single and Mike Baxter scored on a passed ball as the Mets took advantage of a wild Edinson Volquez (2-5).
When warming up in the side-by-side bullpens at Citi Field before the game, Volquez tried throwing a knuckleball.
"Your knuckleball doesn't work for me!" Volquez shouted to Dickey on the Mets side.
Little worked for Volquez at the start. He needed 75 pitches to get through the first three innings.
Taking advantage of Volquez's wildness in the first, the Mets added to their major league-leading total of runs scored with two outs. After retiring the first two batters, Volquez walked David Wright. Wright stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch on ball four to Lucas Duda. Murphy then lined a single to right-center for the lead.
The Mets had runners on first and third with one out in the second and failed to score. In the fifth, Baxter doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball.
Justin Turner singled with two outs in the fifth, ending Volquez's day after 109 pitches. The 28-year-old right-hander allowed five hits and two runs. He struck out five and walked three.
"I was a little bit all over in the first inning," Volquez said. "Then I fixed my mechanics and came back and pitched better."
The Mets brought back Banner Day for the first time since 1996 as part of their season-long 50th anniversary celebration. Several signs asked for Dickey to throw the Mets' first no-hitter. Yonder Alonso dashed those hopes with two outs in the first, but, boy, Dickey was good.
The quirky right-hander walked to the mound to Darth Vader's "Imperial March" before the first pitch and then was ruthless with his knuckleball. He struck out the first two Padres -- Everth Cabrera was not able to hold onto his bat as he flailed at strike three. Cabrera didn't even bother swinging at the third strike his second time up.
The Padres got a hit in each of the first two innings then went hitless until Jesus Guzman doubled with one out in the seventh -- their second extra-base hit after Thursday's win. Guzman then got thrown out trying to steal third base.
Dickey gave up three hits, walked one and hit a batter in 7 1-3 innings.
"The knuckleball is a funny thing. It's very enigmatic," Dickey said. "Overall, I felt pretty good with where it's at."
NOTES: About a dozen members of the Ivy League champion Cornell baseball team visited with Black before the game. Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier's son Ryan is on the team. ... Mets C Josh Thole (concussion) is scheduled to play in an extended spring game on Monday. ... Alonso has gotten at least a hit in his last 26 of 29 games. He is batting .355 in that stretch.