R.A. Dickey was in command for five innings, but then the ball started flying, costing him and the Braves in a 5-3 loss to the Reds at SunTrust Park on Friday.
After setting down nine of the first 10, and allowing five baserunners through five innings, Dickey was taken deep three times in the sixth frame.
“It was kind of an odd night, really,” he said. “I didn’t expect to have a line score like that for sure. It was moving well, just a cluster of four or five hitters in that sixth inning that was really kind of funny … That’s the nature of the (knuckleball) pitch sometimes.”
Dickey had allowed four homers across July and August. He last gave up three in one game against the Nationals on June 13.
Since that start, Dickey had a 2.12 ERA over his next 63 2/3 innings. He’d allowed five homers across those 10 starts. He struck out nine on Friday after striking out six total in his past two starts.
“He definetely deserved a better fate,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “He had a pretty good night. Knuckleball going almost all day. Only one of those wasn’t a very good one, the other two (that were homered) were actually pretty good.”
Matt Adams gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a homer just over the right field wall. It was Adams’ 17th homer with the season, 16 of which have come with the Braves.
Of Adams’ 66 hits in Atlanta, exactly half have gone for extra bases (16 homers, 16 doubles and one triple). Adams only had three at-bats in the four-game Colorado series due to defensive concerns.
Reds starter Sal Romano had perhaps his best start of the season. Romano had allowed 18 earned runs over his past 17 innings. The rookie rejoined the Reds’ rotation after the All-Star break, pitching to a 6.46 ERA entering Friday.
Romano gave up five hits, including the Adams homer, across seven innings. It was the first time he threw seven innings, and third time allowing no more than a run. He’d previously done so twice against the Marlins on July 23 and 28.
Dickey was sharp early. He set down the middle of the Reds’ order – Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett – via the strikeout the first time through.
He retired down nine of the first 10, with a walk to Eugenio Suarez his lone blemish. Dickey faced trouble in the fourth, when Zack Cozart and Scooter Gennett’s singles put runners at the corners. But he got Suarez to fly out to center to end the inning.
A similar scenario unfolded in the fifth. Dickey sandwiched two strikeouts between Jesse Winker and Billy Hamilton singles. But Dickey got Cozart to pop out to Freddie Freeman in foul ground.
After living on the edge, Dickey finally tipped over. Votto led-off the sixth with a single, and Duvall smacked a homer to left for a 2-1 lead. Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker added solo homers.
“It (the knuckleball) can go and he can get it and it stays through the whole game,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’ve seen it before. It’s just one of those things. You live and die with it, the good and the bad. They just had three of them they didn’t miss.
“It was pretty much three pitches, really. He was really good and then just kind of, that’s just the way it goes.”
Seven Reds came to bat in the frame, four did damage. Dickey had only allowed five baserunners in the previous five innings.
“You’ve just got to keep a good attitude about it and keep persevering through it,” Dickey said. “I’m in a good place mechanically. And I look forward to my next outing. There’s nothing really mechanically that I felt was flawed. It’s just the pitch didn’t wiggle the one time I needed it to wiggle.”
The Braves showed signs of life in the eighth. Ender Inciarte and Brandon Phillips singled to open the frame. Freddie Freeman advanced them, and Nick Markakis grounded Inciarte to home. Tyler Flowers doubled in Phillips to trim it to 5-3.
Adams almost had a game-tying homer but it drifted right of the foul pole. He walked, but Ozzie Albies flew out to left to end the threat.
“They keep coming back,” Snitker said. “We cut it there and got a little momentum going. Matt hits the one nine miles just foul. Shoot, I had a good feeling there with Oz that there’d be something there. Just didn’t happen.”