Mets 3, Nationals 2
R.A. Dickey didn't lose his composure after he fell down fielding a bunt, and he remained calm when extracting himself of a bases-loaded jam the hit helped create. Yet the right-hander was still staring at his third no-decision of the season at Nationals Park.
Pinch hitter Nick Evans hit a tiebreaking double in the seventh inning, though, rewarding Dickey for an effective start and helping the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 on Wednesday.
Dickey wants to be part of the Mets' rotation for 2011, and New York manager Jerry Manuel said the knuckleball specialist took a big step in securing a spot with his cool approach when things got hairy.
''If he's going to be one of the guys, those are the kinds of things he's going to have to get through and (Dickey) was able to get it done, Manuel said.
Dickey (10-6) picked up his first victory in three starts this season at Washington. The right-hander yielded two runs on five hits over six innings and struck out one.
His 10 victories are a career high, one more than he posted for Texas in his 2003 rookie season.
''Double-digit wins in the big leagues ... does have a different feel to it,'' Dickey said with a smile.
The bases-loaded situation in the sixth - which started when Dickey lost his footing fielding Nyjer Morgan's leadoff bunt - didn't rattle the righty.
''I don't really get anxious about it because I know I'm capable of throwing one good knuckleball and getting out of it,'' Dickey said. ''So I keep telling myself that and sometimes it takes more than one good one, it takes a few good ones.
''I don't get into panic mode like I did when I was younger.
With the score knotted at 2, Josh Thole led off the seventh by walking against Livan Hernandez (9-11) and moved to second on Ruben Tejada's sacrifice bunt. After Lucas Duda was announced as a pinch hitter, Sean Burnett relieved and the Mets countered with Evans, who grounded a broken-bat double past the reach of first baseman Adam Dunn to score Thole.
''It's good to finally get a knock and feel like you contributed, especially coming off a few pinch hits where I went up there and struck out,'' Evans said.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was astonished that a right-handed hitter could maneuver a ball down the first-base line off an inside pitch from a lefty.
''You might see that two or three times a year,'' Riggleman said.
Hisanori Takahashi worked the ninth for his fifth save in as many tries.
Hernandez, bidding for his team-high 10th victory, allowed three runs on six hits in 6 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out four.
Wilson Ramos hit his first major league homer for the Nationals.
''I'm excited right now for my first home run,'' Ramos said. ''Not so excited because we lost.''
The Mets, who have won two straight and three of four overall, grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third. After singles by Dickey and Angel Pagan, Luis Hernandez hit a run-scoring double that knuckled away from center fielder Morgan. Carlos Beltran followed with a sacrifice fly.
Ramos' two-run shot to center tied it in the fifth. Michael Morse singled with one out and, one batter later, Ramos hit a 1-0 knuckleball into the batter's eye.
A late addition to the lineup when Ivan Rodriguez was scratched with a stomach virus, Ramos had some firsthand knowledge of Dickey's tricky knuckleball. The two were battery mates with Minnesota during spring training last season and the rookie knew not to try to pull the gimmick pitch.
''I know how he likes to be in different counts,'' Ramos said. ''I was waiting for that pitch. I never try to pull the (knuckleball) because if I try to pull that pitch, it's a ground ball to shortstop or third base, for sure.''
Washington loaded the bases with one down in the sixth on a bunt single by Morgan, a hit batter and a single to right by Dunn. But Dickey, whose previous two starts at Nationals Park this season ended in no-decisions, wiggled out of trouble by getting Roger Bernadina on a foul pop and Morse on a groundout.
NOTES: Hernandez's next victory will give him double-digit victories for the 11th time in 15 major league seasons. He is tied with reliever Tyler Clippard for the team lead in wins. ... Mets manager Jerry Manuel said he expects to have SS Jose Reyes, who has not played since Aug. 26 because of a strained right ribcage muscle, back Friday. ... RHP Dillon Gee, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Tuesday in his major league debut, might have earned another start. ''We'll find a place for him if we think the right thing to do is for him to pitch,'' Manuel said.