Teary-eyed R.A. Dickey: ‘Absolute privilege’ to play for Braves

The soon-to-be 43-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey threw 8 strong innings in a 3-2 win against the Nationals. (Video by David O'Brien)

R.A. Dickey took the mound Thursday realizing it may be the final home start of his career. Afterward, the 42-year-old spared no emotion in what may have been his curtain call.

If that was his career's conclusion, Dickey went out on a high note. The knuckleball was as sharp as it's ever been, and he allowed only two runs in eight innings. The Braves hung on to defeat the Nationals 3-2, giving Dickey his 10th win.

“I’d be lying to say if you didn’t have some nostalgia about it,” Dickey said. “Theoretically, this could be my last start ever at a home venue. But we’re going to make that decision at the end of the season and see how I feel, what goes on there. But tonight was special for me. It gave me 120 wins on my career, double digits for seven out of eight years, something like that. It was a nice win, and I was thankful for it.”

Dickey has won 10 games for six consecutive years. He’s among six major leaguers to do so, joining Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Gio Gonzalez. In picking off Trae Turner in the third inning, Dickey has 37 career pickoffs, second most among active pitchers and tops for right-handers.

“It was typical R.A,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. “He’s definitely a gamer. He prepares great. We’ve been talking about it the last few days, he’s been on me, making sure I’m going to catch him and all that. We went over the lineup seven times in the last two days, but that’s how he is every time. He tries to do everything he can to be as prepared as possible. And then see what happens with the knuckleball that day.”

Braves starting pitcher R.A. Dickey works against the Washington Nationals. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

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Credit: John Bazemore

But this season is held in even more esteem because of where Dickey is performing. A Nashville, Tennessee, native, Dickey dreamed of wearing a Braves uniform. In his 16th professional year, he fulfilled a childhood desire.

“It’s an absolute privilege to put on this uniform every time, and I will get emotional if I keep talking, but you never want to take a single day for granted,” he said. “When you put on a uniform that you grew up loving and knowing intimately, it’s a special thing. I never wanted to take that for granted as long as I play the game. Tonight was a special night because I got to win a special game as an Atlanta Brave. It was cool.”

Dickey has acted as a dual coach and player through the season. He’s adamant that part of his job is preparing the younger Braves for their days ahead, when he and they hope they’ll be competing atop the National League standings.

“I’ve got great teammates. They know what’s at stake. You’re always playing for something. This game never lets you up. You may think you’re out of the race, you may think you’re this many games back, but you’re always being evaluated. You got pride to play. Be competitive. You’re always playing for something. If you don’t have that mindset, it’s going to eat you alive. So they knew what was at stake, guys stepped up tonight and it was a good community win.”