Reyes, Dickey dominate as Mets cruise
Shortstop falls double short of cycle; knuckleballer wins sixth
NEW YORK -- Their lockers are at opposite corners of the home clubhouse at Citi Field, which seems somewhat apt. Little in that room stands in greater contrast than the calm self-awareness of R.A. Dickey and the screeching electricity of Jose Reyes. And the Mets, now, need them both.
It was Dickey who arranged the kindling in a 5-0 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday, and Reyes who lit the match. And the result was one of the more complete games the Mets have played all season.
In retrospect, Wednesday's key moment came in the first inning, when the Tigers loaded the bases against Dickey with two outs. But three knuckleballs were all it took for Dickey to induce an inning-ending groundout from Carlos Guillen. The Tigers never again mounted a similar threat.
In his seventh start with the Mets, Dickey fired eight shutout innings to record his sixth victory. No Mets pitcher has ever had so many wins without a loss in his first seven starts. And no Mets pitcher, to be certain, has ever thrown a baseball quite like Dickey.
"The biggest surprise to me is how hard he throws the knuckleball," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "This is one of the best lineups in baseball tonight, and he just kind of went through them."
"It's not just one pitch you had to worry about," Tigers left fielder Brennan Boesch said. "It was two different types of knuckleballs, like a knuckle-change and then a hard breaking ball."
Had Mets manager Jerry Manuel not felt compelled to provide his closer, Francisco Rodriguez, with some work for the first time since Friday, Dickey likely would have finished the job himself. As it was, he lasted eight shutout innings, striking out four, walking two and allowing four hits. He threw merely 97 pitches, most of them knuckleballs, retiring the final 13 batters he faced.
"As I was walking off the field, I was kind of eyeballing Jerry, because you can tell what his thoughts are with his actions," Dickey said. "I was trying to make eye contact with him, at least to give him the notion that it's something that I wanted to finish. I think he sensed that. But if keeping Frankie sharp is going to help us win ballgames, I'm all for that."
"I know that we have to keep Frankie on some type of game regimen," Manuel said, defending his decision to pull Dickey after eight. "It's a difficult, difficult decision. You hate to deprive a guy of a complete-game shutout possibility. He was rolling pretty good."
With comedian Jerry Seinfeld enjoying the action from the booth, where he was a special guest, Dickey was also rolling with a lead, thanks in large part to his shortstop.
After tripling to lead off the game, Reyes later singled, stole second and scored in the third inning, before blasting a solo home run off Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman in the fifth.
"Now I feel like me," Reyes said, alluding to the aftereffects of his thyroid imbalance earlier this year. "I just enjoy everything that I do on the field -- especially now that we're winning."
|"I felt like if I put in the hard work and committed to the journey of what it takes to do what I do, that eventually it was going to yield some fruit. I'm excited that it's yielded this ripe of fruit, but it doesn't feel like a dream. I feel like I'm coming to work and putting in the time and doing what I need to do to be successful."|
|-- R.A. Dickey|
Cementing that much, the Mets scored twice more on Ike Davis' two-run single off Phil Coke in the seventh inning -- despite the fact that they didn't particularly need to.
Dickey made sure of that much.
"It doesn't feel surreal," he said of his 6-0 record through his first seven starts. "I feel like this is something I've been capable of doing. I felt like if I put in the hard work and committed to the journey of what it takes to do what I do, that eventually it was going to yield some fruit. I'm excited that it's yielded this ripe of fruit, but it doesn't feel like a dream. I feel like I'm coming to work and putting in the time and doing what I need to do to be successful."
Now, Manuel said, Dickey has graduated beyond the role of spot starter, beyond the role of temporary rotation plug and on to something far more stable. Now, Dickey has become a bona fide member of the Mets' rotation.
"He'll have to have a number of bad [starts] to be taken out," Manuel said.
So perhaps he will remain there for quite some time. Dickey likes to joke that because he only learned to throw his signature pitch five years ago, he is "26 in knuckleball years." And indeed, he appeared downright youthful -- if not as much as Reyes -- when he climbed upon the mound to silence one of the better offensive teams in baseball.
With the prospect of a derailed career still fresh in his mind, Dickey, like Reyes, has reemerged in 2010.
"I never felt like it was an option to give up," he said. "I had dedicated too much time and put too many people through heck to give up on it. I felt like it was going to come to fruition in some way. I never stopped believing in that."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.