R.A. Dickey nearly gave the New York Mets their second no-hitter in two weeks.
Now that would have been something — especially considering it took them more than 50 years to pitch their first one.
Dickey allowed only an infield single during his second career one-hitter and broke the franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings in a 9-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night.
The knuckleballer became the first 10-game winner in the majors, set a career best with 12 strikeouts and did not walk a batter. The only hit the Rays managed came when speedy B.J. Upton hit a high bouncer in the first inning that third baseman David Wright was unable to field with his bare hand.
Mets manager Terry Collins said the team would appeal the official scorer’s ruling on Upton’s hit to the commissioner’s office, but conceded it probably wouldn’t change the result.
”We said in the ninth inning that we’ve got to appeal that play. We’re probably not going to win it, but … what the heck,” Collins said. ”What have you got to lose except to have somebody say no?”
Johan Santana held St. Louis hitless on June 1, the first no-hitter in the Mets’ 51-year history. Dickey was just as dominant Wednesday — if not more so.
”If anybody deserved a no-hitter or a perfect game tonight, it was him,” Collins said.
Dickey (10-1) ran his career-best shutout streak to 32 2/3 innings before yielding an unearned run in the ninth. That topped the previous club mark of 31 2/3 scoreless innings in a row set by Jerry Koosman in 1973.
”I always try to be consistent. That means a lot to me, to be consistent and trustworthy. And it makes me feel good that my team feels like they’ve got a chance to win every time out,” said Dickey, who also pitched a one-hitter against Philadelphia at Citi Field on Aug. 13, 2010.
”The streaks and the special things that happen along the way are just the manifestation of that, of wanting to be consistent and wanting to really be good at my craft. I still have a passion for it. I’m still looking for things to do with the knuckleball.”
After Upton’s hit, the 37-year-old knuckleballer permitted only one other baserunner, on a throwing error by Wright in the ninth.
”We’re two plays from a perfect game,” Collins said. ”I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve not seen a perfecto. Today I saw as close to that as I’ve ever been around in my 42 years. It’s amazing, just truly amazing what he’s done. To think two years ago this guy was the first guy cut from this club to where he’s at today, I absolutely salute the guy.”
Dickey outpitched AL wins leader David Price (8-4). In his last five outings, the right-hander has struck out 50 and walked three. He is 8-0 in his past 10 starts.
”He’s at a different level right now. It’s amazing what he’s been able to do,” Wright said. ”It just seems like each outing he’s getting better and better. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Besides the good fortune for Upton, Tampa Bay didn’t come close to getting another hit. In fact, the Rays only managed to hit five balls out of the infield all night — three routine fly balls to center field and one each to left and right.
”Did you notice he was tipping all of his pitches?” Rays manager Joe Maddon joked. ”Did you happen to pick up on that?
”We were just the latest victim. He’s done that to a lot of teams more recently,” Maddon added. ”He’s really good right now. He has this uncanny ability to throw it around the strike zone for strikes. He’s a different cat. He’s got a hot knuckleball.”
Wright said he might have tried to use his glove to make the play on Upton’s grounder in the first if a slower runner had been trying to beat out the hit.
The third baseman said he didn’t know if he should have been charged with an error.
”I tried to make the play. I didn’t make it. It’s as simple as that,” Wright said. ”I don’t think I could have got him with the glove. I tried to barehand it. It hit the lip and skipped on me, and I didn’t make the play. If they want to go back and give me an error, they can do that.”
Dickey, whose eight straight wins also are a career best, lost his shutout in the ninth. Elliot Johnson reached on Wright’s throwing error, then advanced to third on a pair of passed balls by Mike Nickeas before scoring when Desmond Jennings grounded out.
”Mike is really upset about it, but he did a great job. It’s not easy to catch him,” Collins said.
”He was apologizing profusely at the end of the game,” Dickey said. ”It’s hard back there, especially when it was moving like it was tonight. … He had done a great job all night. It’s just that last inning that kind of got away from him a little bit, but he worked his tail off.”
Daniel Murphy and Omar Quintanilla drove in two runs apiece for the Mets. Nickeas ended an 0-for-14 drought with an RBI single, and Vinny Rottino and Ike Davis also drove in runs for New York, which has rebounded from being swept by the Yankees in a weekend series to win two straight from Tampa Bay by a combined score of 20-3.
Wright capped a 14-hit outburst with a two-run double in the ninth.
Price, who is tied for the AL wins lead, allowed a season-high seven runs on nine hits in five-plus innings. He walked three and struck out eight.
According to STATS LLC, the starting pitching matchup was only the second since 1921 to feature the AL and NL wins leaders during the regular season. The other was Boston’s Josh Beckett and San Diego’s Jake Peavy on June 24, 2007. The Rays said it has only happened three times in the last 50 World Series, with Atlanta’s John Smoltz facing the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte in 1996, Toronto’s Jack Morris facing Atlanta’s Tom Glavine in 1992 and the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax going against the Yankees’ Whitey Ford twice in 1963.
NOTES: Collins was selected to serve as one of the NL coaches for the All-Star Game. … Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist was out of the lineup for the second straight night. The second baseman has a sore right hand that was injured while sliding into second base at Miami on Sunday, but Maddon said Zobrist did not play Tuesday night because he was ill. … Rays DH Luke Scott, who has not started the last seven games, is day to day with a stiff back. … Mets LF Jason Bay went 1-for-5 and is 1-for-21 since returning from a long stint on the disabled list with a broken rib.