Padres-Mets Preview

The Associated Press

At 37 years old, New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is enjoying one of the best stretches of his career.

That doesn't bode well for the light-hitting San Diego Padres.

Dickey looks to win his fifth consecutive decision Sunday at Citi Field as the Mets try to climb six games above .500 for the first time in nearly two years.

Dickey (6-1, 3.45 ERA) has gone 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his last six starts.

The right-hander is coming off a career-best, 11-strikeout performance as he beat Pittsburgh on Tuesday in a 3-2 win. He allowed one run and didn't walk a batter for the first time this season.

"It's the best I've ever seen (his knuckleball) in a game," Mets catcher Mike Nickeas told the team's official website. "It was ridiculous."

Dickey's run-support average is 5.02 - up from 4.01 in 2011 when he finished 8-13 with a 3.28 ERA - but he's also striking out 8.01 per nine innings this season compared to 5.78 last year.

Dickey last won five straight decisions from May 25-June 23, 2010, when he posted victories in a career-best six consecutive starts. His only two career starts against San Diego both came last season, going 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA.

If he runs into any problems Sunday, the Mets' bullpen is well-rested after Johan Santana threw the team's first complete game of the season Saturday in a 9-0 victory.

New York (26-21), winner of four of five, matched a season best with three home runs - including Nickeas' first career grand slam - as it moved five games above .500. The team hasn't been six above the break-even point since it was 49-43 on July 18, 2010.

The Padres (17-31), meanwhile, have lost five of six thus far on a 10-game road trip. They set season highs in hits (18) and runs in Thursday's 11-5 series-opening victory, but have been held to eight hits (seven singles) and one run over the last two games.

Edinson Volquez (2-4, 3.49) knows all too well how San Diego's offense can struggle. He enters his start Sunday with the worst run support average in the majors at 1.82. Volquez didn't get one run of support for the fourth time in six starts Tuesday in a 4-0 loss at St. Louis.

The right-hander has lost back-to-back outings, walking seven and allowing eight runs, after a four-start stretch in which he was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA.

Facing the Mets might not help Volquez end his funk. He's 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA in three starts against them.

Volquez might not have to face third baseman David Wright, the NL leader with a .390 batting average. Manager Terry Collins said he might rest Wright on Sunday before the Philadelphia series that begins Monday in New York.

Ike Davis will be in Sunday's starting lineup, having gone 3 for 5 with five RBIs in this series after his pinch-hit double knocked in a run Saturday.

Padres first baseman Yonder Alonzo will try to extend his hitting streak to 10. He's batting .364 during that stretch.

San Diego could be without center fielder Cameron Maybin after he left Saturday's game with a wrist injury.

"He's been taking extra BP, trying to figure this out," manager Bud Black said, "and the wrist just flared."

Mets shortstop Ronny Cedeno, hitless in his last 14 at-bats, is questionable after a leg cramp forced him out Saturday in the eighth inning.

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