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Pumped Dickey has his best outing

New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43)

New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) throws in the bottom of the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. (May 20, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

Earlier this week, as the Mets spent their pregame hours at Citi Field staying dry indoors, R.A. Dickey stood in the dugout runway, throwing knuckleballs against a concrete wall.

One after the next, the ball caroming back to him, the exercise really serving no purpose other than to burn off his mounting frustration with a skittish start to the season.

By then, it was evident just how much Dickey was looking forward to Friday night's start against the Yankees. And once the game began, the normally Zen-like Dickey showed more emotion than he had all year in delivering his best performance in a 2-1 win for his first victory since April 3.

"I've continued to say that I'm close despite some of the results and despite what others may think," Dickey said. "I've always believed that, and I felt like it was the [knuckleball] that I remember from last year. It was a swing-and-miss one. I felt like I'd been close for a while. I just kept telling myself stay the course and it will work out. I feel like it's there."

Dickey (2-5) allowed only four hits in six innings, with the only run coming on Mark Teixeira's homer with two outs in the third. After falling behind 3-and-1 on four straight knucklers, Dickey tried to slip a two-seam fastball past him and Teixeira hooked it just over Carlos Beltran's leap and the rightfield wall.

But the Yankees never got another runner as far as third base against Dickey, who had allowed 15 earned runs in 181/3 innings in his previous three starts.

Dickey improved to 3-1 with a 2.39 ERA in eight games against the Yankees, including two starts, and to 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA against AL teams in interleague play.

He still had three walks -- the most since his four on April 14 -- but Dickey was able to harness the knuckler when he needed it most.

"The challenge is no one knows where it's going," Derek Jeter said. "The thing with him is he mixes in his fastball as well and he throws a hard knuckleball. It's a little bit different than [Red Sox pitcher Tim] Wakefield. He throws a hard one. He had it working."

In the fifth inning, Dickey was forced to get four outs. First-base umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled that Daniel Murphy pulled his foot off the base to grab a long throw from Jose Reyes on Brett Gardner's leadoff grounder.

In an uncharacteristic move, Dickey lost his cool on the call, but he regained his composure to strand two that inning. After Reyes made a run-saving dive on Alex Rodriguez's grounder up the middle, Dickey pumped his fist while walking off the field.

In the sixth, Dickey faced trouble again, this time after Russell Martin's one-out double. But he followed that by striking out Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher, then punched his glove enthusiastically while striding off the mound.

"I felt like I was pitching out of some jams quite a bit, you know?" Dickey said. "Here, more than other places, you don't want to let their crowd get into it. It can get fairly loud and the momentum can start to sway, and that's what this place offers their home team. It's a benefit for them. But when you can stop that, when you can stop the momentum, it makes for a nice night."

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