Orioles-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

While there was some debate as to whether R.A. Dickey's latest gem should have been scored a no-hitter, his recent efforts haven't left much room for dispute.

Dickey takes the mound aiming to win a sixth consecutive start and a ninth straight decision as the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles open a three-game set Monday night at Citi Field.

Tied for the most wins in the majors and ranked near the top in strikeouts and ERA, Dickey (10-1, 2.20 ERA) continues to baffle opponents. The veteran knuckleballer is 8-0 in his last 10 outings and has won five consecutive starts while compiling a remarkable 0.23 ERA - a stretch during which he's struck out 50 and walked just three over 39 2-3 innings.

"He's at a different level right now. It's amazing what he's been able to do," David Wright said. "It just seems like each outing he's getting better and better. It's fun to be a part of."

Dickey was nearly perfect his last time out, yielding an unearned run and one hit while fanning a career-high 12 during Wednesday's 9-1 win at Tampa Bay - his second complete game of the month. The only hit was an infield single which Wright couldn't scoop up barehanded.

The Mets challenged the official scoring on that play, but their appeal was denied by Major League Baseball.

"I've seen a lot of things. I've not seen a perfecto," said manager Terry Collins. "(Wednesday) I saw as close to that as I've ever been around in my 42 years. It's amazing, just truly amazing what he's done. To think two years ago this guy was the first guy cut from this club to where he's at today, I absolutely salute the guy."

Dickey's numbers may come as a surprise to some, but he's been pitching well for a while now - his 2.91 ERA since the start of 2010 ranks ninth in the majors.

"I always try to be consistent. That means a lot to me, to be consistent and trustworthy," he said. "The streaks and the special things that happen along the way are just the manifestation of that, of wanting to be consistent and wanting to really be good at my craft. I still have a passion for it. I'm still looking for things to do with the knuckleball."

Dickey now tries to slow down red-hot Baltimore (39-27), which prevailed 2-0 at Atlanta on Sunday behind seven strong innings from Wei-Yin Chen. The Orioles have won seven of eight to improve to 9-3 in interleague play.

Baltimore looks to keep things going behind Jake Arrieta (3-8, 5.89), who after getting demoted to the bullpen earlier this month, unexpectedly impressed while replacing injured Brian Matusz during Wednesday's 7-1 win over Pittsburgh.

Arrieta had gone 0-6 with a 9.34 ERA over his previous seven starts before allowing one run, seven hits and fanning a career high-tying nine over seven innings.

"I went back to doing some things I was doing when I was successful," said Arrieta, who's never faced New York. "Kind of made some things a lot more simple than they were a couple weeks ago. I wasn't thinking as much. Going out there and really executing."

Arrieta seems to have a favorable matchup against the scuffling Mets (35-32).

New York is coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of Cincinnati, falling 3-1 in Sunday's series finale. Collins' club, which scored a combined five runs versus the Reds, has dropped a season-worst four in a row at home and nine of 13 overall.

"We're sputtering a little bit offensively," Wright said. "Our starting pitching hasn't been bad. We just haven't been able to get them any runs."

The Mets have taken five of seven from the Orioles, including a three-game road sweep June 11-13, 2010, when the teams met last.