Orioles believe plate ump knuckled under

R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets

R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets celebrates with teammate Josh Thole #30 after pitching a complete-game one-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field. (June 18, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

The Orioles tried to sing R.A. Dickey's praises and leave it at that after he limited them to Wilson Betemit's clean two-out single in the fifth inning in a 5-0 masterpiece last night.

But even as they credited Dickey for a knuckleball that moved here, there and everywhere, they could not help but discredit plate umpire Eric Cooper for a strike zone they thought was equally unpredictable.

"There were some questionable calls," said centerfielder and cleanup hitter Adam Jones after he came up empty in three at-bats. "It's human error."

Rightfielder Chris Davis thought he and Dickey were only partly responsible for his 0-for-4 futility with three strikeouts.

"When you go up there looking for a ball in the strike zone and you are not getting it . . . ," he said.

Asked to complete the thought, the Orioles' No. 3 hitter declined. But he also said of some of the 81 strikes called during Dickey's 114-pitch evening, "This is our job. This is our living. When it affects the outcome, it's tough."

Shortstop J.J. Hardy, who batted just ahead of Davis and took the same 0-for-4 collar with one strikeout, all but clamped his hand onto his wallet when asked to comment.

"I can't say what I want to say," he said. "What I want to say, I get fined."

Hardy did elaborate to some degree. He said of Dickey's dancing knuckler, "It's hard to catch. It's hard to hit. I'm sure it would be difficult for umpires to call. Fastballs are different."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter occasionally was spotted protesting calls from the dugout as the Mets' white-hot righthander typically worked ahead in the count and stayed ahead. He chose diplomacy afterward.

"It was a challenging night. Hitters are seeing things they don't normally see. Umpires are seeing things they don't normally see," Showalter said. "It was challenging for both."

Showalter praised Dickey, who had 13 strikeouts, but said of his hitters, "I think they were a little frustrated by the liberalness of some of the pitches."

Some Orioles batters said Dickey stands apart from others who used the dancing pitch to make a major-league living because of his ability to throw a hard knuckleball.

"[Tim] Wakefield has a big, slow one. You can see it," Jones said. "This one gets on you quick. My approach was to look fastball every pitch and try to catch the knuckleball in front."

That approach led to three weak grounders as Dickey quieted a Baltimore lineup that ultimately refused to stay silent.

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