How good is R.A. Dickey? Nationals’ fans may well have silently scoffed at his last outing, when he tamed the St. Louis Cardinals: the Cardinals are one of the best hitting teams in baseball, to be sure, but that gem was at home — and besides, the Cardinals were struggling.
But Dickey brought his knuckler to Nationals Park today, and the Nationals responded with even fewer hits than the Redbirds, as Dickey and the New York Metropolitans downed the Washington Nationals, 3-1. It all seemed too easy. Dickey threw 7.1 scoreless innings, and has now thrown 24.2 scoreless innings in a row, while upping his record to 9-1. Like Gio Gonzalez, he’s All Star bound.
“I’ve seen some knuckleballers that will throw a hard knuckleball, but his is about as hard as I’ve ever seen,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Dickey. “He has variations off it, it goes down to 67 mph when he wants to just float it up there. It’s almost like a curveball. The one he uses mostly, and I think he has the best command of, is that hard knuckleball. It just kind of comes up there and wobbles. That’s the one we had the most trouble with today.”
Dickey’s performance stood in contrast to that of Nationals’ starter Chien-Ming Wang, who struggled to get through the Mets line-up. He loaded the bases twice, and while his line score looks respectable, skipper Davey Johnson said that the sinker baller was having problems with his mechanics. “I liked his arm strength and everything,” Johnson said. “He’s having a little problem, he gets to the side of the ball. He doesn’t stay on top of it. Sometimes he gets out of the slot that he needs to be in. When he stays in that slot, his stuff is outstanding. It’s just a consistency thing with him.”
Lucas Duda was the biggest problem for Wang, who gave up a home run to him in the fifth inning with one on. It was all that the Mets would need, though Ryan Zimmerman brought the Anacostia Nine within two runs in the ninth inning with his third home run of the year.
The Wisdom Of Section 1-2-9: Sometimes the fans in Section 129 are not so wise. Today was the second visit this year of “Mrs. Absolutely, Fabulous” — who comes down from Philadelphia with her husband to visit friends and take in a Nats game. “Isn’t this weather just perfect?” she asked, when she arrived (just on time — in the fifth inning). “It’s absolutely fabulous.”
“You’ll have to behave yourself here,” her husband said. “This isn’t Philadelphia. It’s Washington, they’re civilized here.” This brought general laughter. “Absolutely,” she said, “and we all do.” And more laughter. She was up then, in the 6th and cheering, but for the wrong team. “The Mets are in blue,” a companion said, and she responded. “Oh, of course, how silly of me.”
The regulars looked on, and listened in, in silence and awe. Mrs. Absolutely, Fabulous got lost in the 8th inning, or so at least a group of us onlookers surmised. She’d been gone for well over an inning, “just to get a coke, whew . . . I’m so thirsty,” she announced to everyone. And she then disappeared. But no one among her friends seemed concerned.
She returned finally, shaking her head. “They should have the sections better marked,” she said, but then followed that with this. “I forgot the number.” She waved it all away, returning to her chipper self. “Have you seen this place?” she asked. “It’s just fabulous. And so big.” A clean line shot single to right got her attention. “Now why didn’t that fielder throw it to first?” she asked.
Her husband explained that the right fielder wouldn’t have had a chance of getting the runner. “Well, I guess not,” she said, “because he didn’t even try.” She then picked up on her conversation with her friends from where it left off. Tom Gorzelanny could have been struck by lightening and she wouldn’t have noticed. But the Ryan Zimmerman home run in the 9th got her attention. “Fabulous,” she intoned. “Absolutely fabulous.”