CINCINNATI -- Like an R.A. Dickey knuckleball, the Mets’ season continues to flit this way and that, in no straight line.
Monday night’s 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds hardly was straightforward; Cincinnati loaded the bases in the ninth inning before veteran reliever Jason Isringhausen -- there’s a fellow who’s career has jumped around -- struck out Brandon Phillips to kill the rally.
"We have the type of team," Dickey said, "that’s going to be in a lot of close games. And that’s OK. We just need to be on the winning end of them and [Monday night] was no different. Nobody gave up; we kept pressing. Left a lot of guys on early, but we got the big hits when we had to and it paid off."
So far, things have evened out: 51 wins, 51 losses. Which won’t get the Mets into the playoffs. But, they continue to fight the fight. Set-up reliever Bobby Parnell, after giving up the tying and winning runs to Florida on Sunday, got through the eighth inning Monday night by allowing only a walk.
"That’s the good thing about baseball," Parnell said. "You’ve got a game every day and you go out there and struggle one day, you just have to put things in the past. I was ready to get back out there. It’s kind of a given. You have a bad day, just get after it the next day."
It really is all anyone can ask. Manager Terry Collins acknowledged a certain -- how to put this delicately -- lack of super defensive skills in Daniel Murphy when asked about Murphy’s knock-down, drag-out play on Paul Janish’s ground ball to lead off the ninth inning. After Murphy fell flat stopping the ball, he virtually crawled to the bag just ahead of a collision with both Janish and Isringhausen.
"He’s exciting," Collins said. "But again, he plays with huge enthusiasm, and continues to come up with big plays for us. Dan Murphy goes up there, in certain situations, and he’s going to get a base hit. Determination, he puts good swings on ‘em. We came into spring training figuring that Murph was going to be a role player, maybe the second baseman. But when we started the year he was that role guy and through the injuries, he’s gotten a chance to play a lot, and he’s having a very good year."
On Monday, Murphy’s two-run double in the four-run seventh inning brought in what proved to be the winning run. (He also doubled in the second and raised his batting average to .308.)
The Mets’ results, like Dickey’s best pitch, are not entirely within their control. But the team and pitcher have to settle on a similar outlook:
"I’m really motivated to try to stay out of an inning where there’s a crooked number up there," Dickey said. "I can deal with giving up the little soldiers up there, the little one-run guys. But the two-, three-, four-run innings, you got to try to eliminate that. Do damage control a lot better than I’ve been. [Monday night] I was able to do that, make some big pitches with runners in scoring position.
"But truthfully, with the knuckleball I had, I should’ve done better. I should’ve closed the seventh [he left with two outs, a run in and two on] and maybe pitched into the eighth. I gave up three doubles on fastballs, trying to steal strikes first-pitch. It happens sometimes. I’ll still get some big outs on my fastball, but at the same time, I hate looking back knowing I could’ve been better, because I had a really good knuckleball.
"What I was doing that was so good was that I was throwing strike one, strike two with a lot of guys, I was forcing them, putting the pressure on them to swing the bats early in the count, and because of that, I looked up at 72 pitches through six innings, that’s a good rate."
So: Follow the dancing team.