A day after Johan Santana made Mets history, R.A. Dickey baffled the St. Louis Cardinals in his own way.
The knuckleballer followed up Santana’s no-hitter by shutting out St. Louis, David Wright homered and the New York Mets beat the Cardinals 5-0 on Saturday.
”It’s no easy chore to follow Johan,” Dickey said, ”I went to bed reminding myself to bring what I bring and be myself.”
What he brought was a fluttering knuckler that he could throw at speeds from 59 to 80 mph, causing mostly swings and misses, or softly hit balls that found gloves.
Dickey (8-1) gave up seven hits, struck out nine and walked none in his third career shutout and first since 2010. The Mets scored three runs in the second, on a mishandled grounder and two run-scoring groundouts to win for the sixth time in eight games and tie Miami for second place in the NL East, a game behind Washington.
”I think what’s awesome about it is we don’t have to explain it. It’s organic,” Dickey said. ”We have sustained a level of competition in the midst of a lot of injuries.”
The Mets had two more players hurt Saturday. Outfielder Mike Baxter and reliever Ramon Ramirez were going on the 15-day disabled list with injuries they sustained during — or after — Friday night’s game. Baxter displaced his right collarbone where it meets his sternum and tore cartilage on the right side of his ribcage after plowing into the wall just after making a catch to sustain Santana’s no-hitter. He hit the wall with his left side, and originally thought he had hurt his left shoulder.
”I knew I got it good,” said Baxter, who is expected to miss around six weeks.
Ramirez strained his right hamstring while running onto the field with teammates to mob Santana after he finished the first no-hitter in Mets history.
Carlos Beltran got the Cardinals’ first hit of the series, a clean double against Dickey in the second inning — a day after he hit a shot down the line that looked fair but was ruled foul against Santana. The Cardinals have lost four straight and seven of nine.
”It’s hard to string them together when it’s dancing and he is in the zone,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ”Knuckleball is not an easy pitch to bunt, hit, or hit to the opposite field. You have to put together a good swing at what you see in the zone.”
Citi Field brimmed with happy energy on a breezy, sunny day the day after Santana pitched the first no-hitter in more than 50 years of team history. T-shirts with the phrase ”No-Han” commemorating Santana’s feat were advertised on sale during the seventh inning stretch.
”That’s how you’re going to be successful,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. ”It starts with pitching and it will always be pitching, and when those two guys go out there, we think we’ve got a chance to win.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn allowed five hits and two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, leaving with the score 3-0 and runners on second and third. Lynn (8-2) walked four and struck out three, losing for the second time in four decisions since starting the season with six straight wins.
Dickey gave up a bunt single to Rafael Furcal and a line-drive to Daniel Descalso to begin the ninth, but Matt Holliday hit into a 6-4-3 double play and Beltran flied out to right field to end the game in 2 hours, 34 minutes.
”The thing with him is that he can throw it slow, fast, even medium,” Beltran said. ”And he has a slider and a fastball. With other guys, you can sit on one pitch. He can throw any pitch at any count.”
The reborn knuckleballer who was almost out of baseball before committing to the pitch and remaking his career, baffled the Cardinals all day, getting swinging strikes and weakly hit grounders.
Dickey ended the fifth inning by throwing four straight knuckleballs to Adams, then getting him to swing at a not-so-fast fastball for strike three.
Omar Quintanilla put an even bigger exclamation point on the seventh inning, when he dived to his left to get a hot grounder from Yadier Molina. The shortstop then popped to his feet, spun, and fired to first, prompting a big fist pump from Dickey, who was already striding off the mound. Dickey struck out the side in the eighth to put himself on the cusp of three straight games with double-digit strikeouts.
As it is, he has 30 in his last three starts — against one walk. He hasn’t allowed a run in 17 1/3 innings overall, and he and Santana had back-to-back shutouts for the first time since Aug. 12-13, 2010. In that one, Dickey followed up Santana with a 1-0 blanking of Philadelphia.
”It’d be tough to find two teams with guys who are throwing the ball as well as Johan and Dickey,” Wright said. ”In either league.”
The Mets got all the scoring they needed in the second, though Daniel Murphy added a run in the seventh when Eduardo Sanchez threw a wild pitch while Dickey batted.
Ike Davis led off the second with a single and Quintanilla was hit by a pitch. Josh Thole loaded the bases on an infield single before Dickey reached out and tapped a ball to second base. Descalso fielded it, stumbled and dropped it. Once Descalso got the ball back, he rushed his throw to first, where Matt Adams dropped it for an error that allowed Dickey to reach and gave the pitcher an RBI.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a grounder to Adams, and Andres Torres grounded out to shortstop before Wright ended the inning with a grounder of his own.
NOTES: After highlights of his no-hitter from the night before were played on the scoreboard, Santana stepped out of the Mets dugout and tipped his cap as fans gave him a warm hand before the game started. … Collins said he was conflicted about letting Santana pitch for so long — 134 pitches, a career high. He said the Mets would wait a bit to see whether Santana will be pushed back a day or two before his next start. … Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook is set to start Sunday night’s game against lefty Jonathon Niese. … Adams was not close to the first base bag when LF Holliday uncorked a throw that advanced two runners in the fifth inning, and was removed via double switch when Matheny pulled Lynn. … The Mets lead the NL with six shutouts this season.