The Dodgers look to put some runs on the board and will try to snap their five-game losing streak on Friday night, but they will have to do so against someone who could very well be the starting pitcher for the National League All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 10.
R.A. Dickey came to the Mets in 2010 as the very definition of a journeyman pitcher. New York was his fifth organization in five years, and through 2009 he had a 5.43 career ERA and had never started more than 15 games in the majors in any one year.
After two solid years in New York - 19 wins, 3.08 ERA, 122 ERA+, 2.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio - Dickey has blossomed this season at age 37. The knuckleballer is 11-1 with a 2.31 ERA, and has become a strikeout pitcher with 106 punchouts in 105 innings.
In 2010-2011, Dickey struck out 14.9% of the batters he faced and walked 6.0%. This season, the control is still there at 6.0% of his batters faced, but his strikeouts have jumped to 26.4%. He took a no-decision on Sunday that ended a six-start winning streak in which Dickey put up ridiculous numbers. He allowed two total runs in six starts, only one them earned, and struck out a whopping 63 against just five walks.
Dickey during that stretch became the first major league pitcher with five consecutive starts with no earned runs allowed and at least eight strikeouts. He capped his unprecedented run with back-to-back one-hitters. But Dickey isn't all that surprised at his success.
"I have a pretty big imagination, so I've visualized myself with this pitch being successful. I felt like I've been a pretty good pitcher the last few years," Dickey said.
Dickey said he learned the knuckleball from Charlie Hough in 2005, but he has refined it to a point where he throws it much harder than most. Dickey said he has ranged from as low as 59 MPH this year to 82 MPH on his knuckler.
"That may be a difference between me and the Jedi Council of knuckleballers," Dickey said. I tried to be Charlie Hough. I tried to be Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield, and it didn't work."
Niekro called Dickey's main pitch an "angry knuckleball," but Dickey was more creative in his description.
"If a traditional knuckleball is a butterfly, mine is a butterfly on steroids," Dickey said. "Because of the velocity, it comes in and breaks late, and darts more."
Dickey said a main reason for his success the last three years has been his focus, and that he doesn't worry about his stats or set numerical goals for himself.
"The only goal that I've set at the start of each season is to throw the first pitch. My next goal is to throw the second pitch," Dickey said. "Statistics will be an overflow of the commitment to the moment."
Dickey has made one previous career start at Dodger Stadium, and it was a good one. He allowed two hits and no runs in 5 2/3 innings on July 25, 2010, and struck out six. He took a no-decision that day though, because Clayton Kershaw was on the mound for the Dodgers, winning a 1-0 game. Dickey is excited for his return to Chavez Ravine.
"I love it just because of the nostalgia, number one. And number two, because it's one of the top three or four parks in the world. This is just a fantastic place to play baseball," Dickey said. " The pedigree of people who have come through this park is special."
Game Time: 7:10 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket