R.A. Dickey continues strong work in win over Diamondbacks

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (19) works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday, July 14, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (19) works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday, July 14, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

It’s become clear that R.A. Dickey was onto something following a rough start against the Nationals on June 13.

After allowing eight runs — including three home runs — in five innings of work, Dickey said he was “close to turning the page.”

At the time, he had allowed 19 runs over his past 23 1/3 innings, making the quote seem a little optimistic.

Now, after rolling off five consecutive quality starts in which he hasn’t allowed more than one run, one thing is for sure. Nobody knows R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball like R.A. Dickey.

“When you play long enough, you kind of have a sense on where things are going when you’re healthy,” Dickey said after the Braves’ 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks on Friday night. “I felt that, or I wouldn’t have said it because then I’d be setting myself up for you guys. So, you better be right when you say something like that, and I don’t say something like that very often.”

Though not as sharp as he was against Washington before the All-Star break, Dickey picked his spots and limited damage against one of the best lineups in baseball. He allowed just one run on eight hits in six innings of work, setting himself up for the win until Sam Freeman allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the seventh.

“I had a better knuckleball against Washington than I did tonight,” Dickey said. “But I had enough late movement where they were hitting the top of it. You have to manage this lineup, that is a really good baseball team over there. If you see breathing room, sometimes you’ve got to just take a walk and face the next guy.”

Over Dickey’s past five starts, he has a 1.09 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 33 innings pitched. He’s struck out 27 batters and hasn’t allowed a home run. He gave up 15 home runs in his first 13 starts.

“You don’t think about it when you’re out there, you just pitch,” Dickey said about not allowing home runs as of late. “I just try to keep people off base. Tonight, probably four of their eight hits were hit well and the other four weren’t hit so well, and if I could field my position, I probably would’ve gone out for another inning.”

Batters have hit only .214 against Dickey in his hot streak. And the advanced numbers support that he isn’t just finding a spell of good fortune. In the five starts, Dickey’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is around 2.50.

Having allowed just one run in back-to-back starts against two top 10 offenses in the league, Dickey’s knuckleball has clearly been the key at keeping some of the best hitters in baseball off balance. He allowed just two hits and had four strikeouts against the top four hitters in Arizona’s lineup: A.J. Pollack, David Peralta, Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb.

“It’s a hard pitch (to hit),” Dickey said about his knuckleball. “Especially since they’re coming off the All-Star break too, so it’s not like they’ve gone out in between games and worked on hitting knuckleballs, so I felt like I had a little bit of an advantage. It was also pretty good tonight. So, it feels good to pitch well against teams that are above .500, sure. But at this level, if you let off the gas at all, you’re going to get bit. I don’t care if it’s the Phillies or the Nationals, the big leagues are a tough league, so you can’t ever take anything for granted, and I try not to.”

Dickey’s success has translated well to his club’s success, too. Over the five-game stretch, the Braves are 4-1, with the only blemish being the extra-inning loss to the Nationals.

“He just battles and competes and gives everything he has every night,” manager Brian Snitker said. “When he comes off the mound and he’s done, he’s given you everything he has. Like I say, that pitch can neutralize a really good club.”