Braves go with knuckleballer Dickey vs. Reds (Jun 03, 2017)

BY AP • June 3, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Not seeing a pitcher for several years can be a problem for any batter.

When a pitcher's primary pitch is a knuckleball, that can only increases the degree of difficulty.

That's the dilemma the Cincinnati Reds face on Saturday in the second game of their three-game series against the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta's probable starter is right-hander R.A. Dickey (3-4), a knuckleball specialist who's been faced by just four Cincinnati batters, with two collecting hits against the 42-year-old.

First baseman Joey Votto has gone 3-for-6 with a solo home run and five walks against Dickey in his career, but he's also struck out six times. Shortstop Zack Cozart is 3-for-9 with two doubles.

They are the only two players on the current roster who faced Dickey the last time he pitched against the Reds, back in 2014 at Great American Ball Park when he was still with Toronto. In his career, Dickey is 1-2 with a 4.44 earned-run average, six walks and 31 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings over four starts.

The Braves are much more familiar with Cincinnati's scheduled starter, right-hander Scott Feldman (4-4). Eleven Atlanta players have faced Feldman, including catcher Tyler Flowers, who is 6-for-11 (.545) with three doubles in his career. Right fielder Nick Markakis is 9-for-27 while former Red Brandon Phillips is 3-for-7 with a home run and five RBIs.

Feldman is 0-2 with a 4.58 ERA in three career games -- all starts -- against Atlanta.

The Braves need a lift after watching a 2-0, ninth-leading lead dissipate into a 3-2, 10th-inning loss in Friday's series opener. Phillips, playing his first game in Cincinnati since being traded on Feb. 12 to his hometown Braves after an 11-year career with the Reds, went 0-for-5 to slip to 2-for-19 through the first seven games of Atlanta's nine-game road trip.

Braves manager Brian Snitker conceded before Friday's game that there was a chance Phillips might not react well to a new situation for him -- first time back in a city where he won Gold Gloves, made All-Star teams and left as the franchise's leader among second basemen in hits, doubles, home runs and runs batted in -- surpassing Hall of Famer Joe Morgan in every category.

"I'm sure he wants to do good," Snitker said. "He had some good times and a lot of success there. I guess there's a chance he'll try to do too much."

On the other hand, Flowers singled twice to extend his hitting streak to a season-high six games. His career high is eight games.

Five Cincinnati pitchers teamed up to turn in four innings of shutout relief, opening the door for just their second extra-inning win of the season in five tries this season. Rookie right-hander Austin Brice is becoming a valuable piece of the usually reliable bullpen. Brice, who immediately followed starter Bronson Arroyo in Friday's game, has retired 15 of the last 16 batters he's faced over his last three games.

"We have a bullpen that can nail it down," Arroyo said.

Cozart, one of the few Reds familiar with Dickey, extended on Friday his career-high streak of consecutive games reaching base at least once to 24, the longest active on-base stretch in the majors.



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