LOS ANGELES, Calif. - R.A. Dickey made yet another strong bid to start for the National League in the All-Star game. He wants very much to get the nod — not just for himself, but for a unique group he refers to as the "Jedi Council of Knuckleballers."
Dickey, who resurrected his career several years ago with the specialty pitch, allowed three hits over eight innings to become the majors' first 12-game winner and lead the New York Mets to a 9-0 victory over the Dodgers on Friday night.
Daniel Murphy homered and drove in five runs, helping send Los Angeles to its season-worst sixth straight loss.
"I think every little boy imagines playing in an All-Star game. So in that regard, it would be a real honour, obviously," Dickey said. "But more than that, I think it would give a real legitimacy to what I do as a knuckleball pitcher. I think there are camps of people out there who don't view it as a very legitimate thing.
"I'm certainly thankful for the people who have come before me and done what I've done, because it's allowed me to have the foundation to build off of to become who I am presently," Dickey added. "I mean, I tried to be Charlie Hough. I tried to be Phil Niekro and Tim Wakefield, and it didn't work. So when I started bringing in who I was uniquely with that pitch, things started to kind of turn the corner for me."
The Dodgers' only hit over the first 6 1-3 innings was by opposing pitcher Aaron Harang, a two-out single in the third that fell between left fielder Kirk Niewenhuis and centre fielder Andres Torres after some miscommunication. A.J. Ellis singled in the seventh and Tony Gwynn Jr. doubled in the eighth.
"He was throwing it harder than I'm used to seeing him throw it," Gwynn said. "He threw a lot of strikes with it. And when it's in the zone and the ball's moving like that, it's tough to make contact. It cuts, sinks, it does something different every time he throws it."
Dickey offered a much more colorful description of his primary weapon.
"The metaphor I would give is that if a traditional knuckleball is a butterfly, mine is more like a butterfly on steroids," he said. "It's more like a mosquito or a hummingbird than a butterfly, because of the velocity. It comes in and breaks late at the plate. It darts more and it's in and out of the strike zone. Phil Niekro once told me I had an 'angry' knuckleball."
Dickey(12-1), who had consecutive one-hitters against Tampa Bay and Baltimore during interleague play, returned to form five days after giving up five runs in six innings against the Yankees.
"I didn't have a terrible knuckleball last time, and I didn't approach this game any differently," he said. "It just came out of my hand nice tonight, and I was able to repeat my mechanics and stay in the strike zone."
It was the fifth scoreless outing in a span of seven starts for the 37-year-old right-hander, who struck out 10 and walked one while establishing a career high for wins. He threw no more than 17 pitches in any inning and finished with 116.
Dickey has won 10 straight decisions in 13 starts with a 1.51 ERA since April 18. He finished June 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA.
In the second season of a two-year, $7.8 million contract, Dickey is the first starting pitcher in Mets history to begin a season 12-1 and the first to post at least 12 victories before the All-Star break since Bobby Jones in 1997. The franchise record for wins before the break is held by Tom Seaver, who was 14-5 in 1969 and 1970 going into the midsummer classic.
"One thing I've always tried to do for my team and for myself is to be a consistent, trustworthy product," Dickey said. "And the more often I can do that, the better."
The injury-depleted Dodgers, missing Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Mark Ellis, were shut out for the fifth time in 11 games — including all three at San Francisco — and have produced only two runs in their last 48 innings. They are in a 1-10 tailspin that has seen them go from five games ahead in the NL West to a game behind surging San Francisco. Los Angeles led by as many as 7 1/2 games on May 27.
Harang (5-5) gave up five runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings. Three of the hits were by Ruben Tejada, who was plunked by the right-hander's 116th and final pitch. Tejada also had an RBI single to cap a four-run seventh against rookie Shawn Tolleson.
Dickey retaliated by hitting Dee Gordon on the rear end with two outs in the sixth, eliciting a warning from plate umpire Todd Tichenor to Dickey and both dugouts. Gordon, who is generously listed at 160 pounds in the Dodgers media guide, was the fourth batter Dickey has hit this season.
Murphy, who struck out with the bases loaded to end the first, came through in the fifth with a two-run double and added a three-run homer in the seventh — just his third of the season. The other two came on Wednesday in a 17-1 rout of the Cubs at Wrigley field, ending a home run drought of 352 consecutive at-bats by Murphy.
NOTES: The Dodgers have one home run in their last 15 games. Dickey has allowed only two homers in 82 2-3 innings over his last 10 starts, after giving up at least one in each of his first five outings and seven in 30 1-3 innings. ... Davis dropped a foul popup along the first base line for the Mets' 60th error, one fewer than the Giants' league-worst total. But Dickey shrugged it off and struck out James Loney with his next pitch. ... Johan Santana, who starts for the Mets Saturday night against Nathan Eovaldi, has held the Dodgers to just two runs over 27 2-2 innings in his four starts against them and has won all of them.