While R.A. Dickey put up eye-popping numbers over the first half of the season, keeping things going down the stretch could prove crucial for the New York Mets.
Seeking an 11th consecutive win, Dickey tries to avenge his ugliest outing of the year Saturday afternoon when their series continues with the Atlanta Braves.
Dickey (12-1, 2.40 ERA), tagged for a season-worst eight runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings of a 14-6 defeat at Turner Field on April 18, hasn't lost since. The right-handed knuckleballer is 10-0 with a 1.84 ERA in his last 14 outings and capped his remarkable first half with a scoreless inning during Tuesday's All-Star game.
"I felt like I was on stage at a Broadway musical," he told the team's official website. "It was wild."
"I feel like I know what I'm doing. I feel like I have a good idea what to do with the baseball mechanically and I'm just going to try to repeat that and see what happens."
Though it's been mostly smooth sailing for Dickey, he gave up five runs in two of his final three outings before the break. He allowed five runs and a season-high 11 hits over seven innings of a 6-5 walkoff win over Philadelphia on July 5.
With Dillon Gee (blood clot) likely out of the season and Johan Santana (twisted ankle) banged up, New York will surely need a big second half from Dickey to stay in contention.
"He's the guy we need out there when times are tough for us," manager Terry Collins said. "He's getting us chances to win."
The Mets (46-41) could certainly use another gem from Dickey after Chris Young lasted just three innings during Friday's series-opening 7-5 loss. New York pitchers issued a season-worst 11 walks, and the Mets dropped to 8-25 when allowing at least 10 hits.
"A little frustrating," Collins said. "Eleven bases on balls, 21 baserunners, you're not going to win many games.
"We've said it many, many times: When we pitch, we have a chance to win. And when we don't pitch it's tough for us, because we don't have a lot of power."
Already without Andrelton Simmons (broken finger) for at least a month, the shorthanded Braves (47-39) lost fellow shortstop Jack Wilson to a dislocated pinkie Friday. Martin Prado moved to shortstop for the first time in four years and could be forced to play there again with Wilson day to day.
"Well, the worse-case scenario happened," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We were able to hold on. We were able to get a win with a minimal bench."
With Brian McCann on paternity leave, backup catcher David Ross belted a three-run homer and Chipper Jones also went deep.
Batting .431 with two homers during a 14-game hitting streak, Jones is one RBI away from matching George Brett's 1,596 - the most ever by a third baseman.
Tommy Hanson (10-5, 3.71), meanwhile, takes the hill for Atlanta. The right-hander has gone 5-1 with a 3.55 ERA since the beginning of June and yielded three runs and six hits over six innings of a 6-3 win at Philadelphia last Saturday.
Hanson, who surrendered five runs in seven innings of a 6-1 loss to New York on April 16, has compiled a 6.64 ERA in losing four consecutive starts in this series.
David Wright is 4 for 22 with eight strikeouts against Hanson, but Josh Thole is 9 for 21 with a homer.