After winning his first game of the season on April 3, Dickey has gone six straight starts without picking up another W. On Tuesday night at Citi Field, he allowed six runs in six innings of work, in what turned out to be a 7-6 10-inning loss to the San Francisco Giants.
Dickey was not charged with the loss -- that went to reliever Taylor Buchholz, who surrendered a home run to Aubrey Huff in the top of the 10th. Nevertheless, Dickey took responsibility for the defeat after the game.
"It's hard not to get caught up in results," said Dickey. "Again, our offense has a night like that, the starting pitching's gotta hold up, that's my job."
The Giants, the defending World Series champs, arrived in New York having lost eight of their past 11 games, hitting just .203 as a team during that stretch. But their bats awakened against the Mets' 36-year-old knuckleballer -- particularly in the third inning, when they tallied four runs. The Giants did not have an extra-base hit in the frame, but four singles following a leadoff walk got the job done.
Early in the season, Dickey admitted he was having a hard time throwing his knuckleball effectively. But he has felt better about it recently, and that feeling continued on Tuesday night, adding to his frustration.
"I didn't feel badly about the shape of my knuckleball tonight," Dickey said. "I felt like I had a pretty good one, actually. ... It's frustrating, but you don't wanna doubt yourself too much."
"Knuckleballers are a different breed at times," said manager Terry Collins. "They can pitch a nine-inning game, and one inning, just all of a sudden, it's just not there. ... In the third inning, they were hitting the balls on screws, too. So obviously it just didn't have the bite it normally has."
Last season, Dickey was one of the best stories in the major leagues. After signing a minor league contract with the Mets in the winter and starting the season at Triple-A Buffalo, the journeyman right-hander and recently converted knuckleballer was called up to the majors in mid-May and started out 6-0 in his first seven starts. He finished the season 11-9 with a sparkling 2.84 ERA.
So far in 2011, Dickey's baseball card reveals a 1-3 record and a 4.62 ERA.
In 2010, Dickey was a revelation -- every good start was a pleasant surprise. But this season, his role is different -- he is one of the most pivotal players on the Mets' roster. Dickey is being counted on to deliver wins, pitching in a rotation that is missing its most important piece (Johan Santana), alongside other young starters who are off to rough beginnings: Mike Pelfrey (1-3, 7.39) and Jonathon Niese (1-4, 4.71).
There were other players to blame in Tuesday's demoralizing loss, which dropped the last-place Mets to 12-17 on the season. Catcher Josh Thole continued to struggle defensively behind the plate, both receiving balls and throwing out runners -- and he hit into a double play with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Second baseman Daniel Murphy was 0-for-5 and left seven runners on base, including striking out with Jose Reyes on first base in the bottom of the 10th.
But good pitching wins ballgames. And Dickey is still searching to find the magic touch he discovered last summer.
"I'm not gonna hang my head, because I feel like things could have ended up differently," Dickey said. "But at the same time, you have a lot of angst about losing a game the way it was lost tonight.
"You score six runs, you need to win the ballgame."