Eight outs from baseball immortality, R.A. Dickey's knuckleball got away from him.
His go-to pitch, the one that carried him through 22 outs and had him thinking of a potential no-hitter, flattened out. The crazy movement disappeared. His pitch hung in the air to Shane Victorino, who smacked a double to left.
The no-hitter was gone. The franchise now had officially gone 7,963 games without one.
New York Mets
In his last start of the season, Dickey flirted with a no-hitter but came up short in the Mets' 2-1 win over the Phillies in the first game of the doubleheader Saturday. It marked the longest Mets attempt at a no-hitter since John Maine threw 7 2/3 hitless innings in 2007, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Dickey ultimate received a no-decision for his efforts.
"In all honesty, I thought it would be a great gift not only to the fans but the organization," Dickey said of a no-hitter. "I felt like I had a shot today when I got out of the sixth."
Dickey's first six innings had all the ingredients that could have led to a special day. He had filthy movement, changing his speeds effectively and taking some spin off the ball, which induced plenty of soft contact. He even had the patented defensive gem that seem to accompany all no-hitters and perfect games.
With two outs in the sixth and Carlos Ruiz on second following a leadoff walk, Jimmy Rollins crushed the ball to right and Nick Evans raced backward. He said he had no idea whether he had a shot at the ball, but just ran as fast as he could to try and catch it.
"Nobody ever wants to be the guy that gives up the hit in the no-hitter," Evans said.
While he didn't do it in the most graceful manner, getting turned around in the process, Evans finally made the catch, tumbling down as he grabbed the ball for the final out.
"Every no-hitter somebody makes a big play," Collins said. "I thought that might be the play today and he was throwing so well and with such great command of the knuckleball, I thought this might be something special today."
Something special instead turned into a very good outing. Victorino's double with one out started a rally of three straight hits that eventually put the Phillies ahead 1-0 and had Dickey on the losing end of the game when he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh. Those were the only three hits he yielded.
"I was really able to mix it up today and keep them off balance for the most part and just ran into that little bit of friction in the seventh," Dickey said. "Outside of that, I felt pretty good about the outing."
The Mets eventually rallied to leave Dickey with a no-decision. Like so many times this season, the knuckleballer received little run support, yet kept his team in the game. His 8-13 record with a 3.28 ERA is evidence.
Sparing a bullpen appearance in the final five games of the season, Dickey's season is complete.
"I have such mixed emotions about it," he said of the season, "because although statistically I felt like I held up pretty well [and] our team obviously made some strides, we have a long way to go."