Remember what R.A. Dickey is doing right now.
Because in the year 2023, when every major-league team is using a rotation of five knuckleballers and scoring is reduced to the frequency of a World Cup soccer match, people will point to Dickey as the game-changer.
Fantasy? No, that's what is unfolding this season every time Dickey takes the mound. If not for the Orioles' Wilson Betemit, who broke up Monday night's no-hit bid with two outs in the fifth inning, this might be a different conversation.
"When you think of the Koufaxes and Seavers and Goodens and Verlanders, this guy is just as amazing with that one pitch," Terry Collins said. "It's about command, and how he commands it is unbelievable."
The last NL pitcher to do it? The Braves' Jim Tobin -- in 1944, when the team was based in Boston.
Dickey (11-1) lowered his ERA to 2.00 and has not allowed an earned run in 42 2/3 innings. Dwight Gooden owns the franchise record of 49, in 1985.
Dickey's streak of 12 hitless innings, dating to Wednesday at Tropicana Field, is a franchise record, beating Jack Hamilton's 11 in 1966, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The game took only two hours, seven minutes, and in the ninth, with the crowd chanting his name, Dickey struck out Chris Davis looking.
"You almost get emotional out there,'' Dickey said, "especially with that last hitter, you can hear everybody, it felt like a heartbeat -- one big heartbeat beating -- it's pretty neat. That's the best way I could explain it."
He won't even try to explain his knuckleball at the moment. Dickey did credit Orioles manager Buck Showalter for pushing him toward learning the pitch back with the Rangers in 2005, even though it probably didn't look much like the one that baffled Showalter's Orioles.
"It was fairly poetic, I thought," said Dickey, whose 103 strikeouts tied Justin Verlander for the most in the majors -- with only 21 walks. "The last game he saw me pitch live, I gave up six home runs and tied a modern-day major-league record. Only God could script a narrative like this. It's really incredible."
Dickey retired the first eight batters, striking out four, before he walked pitcher Jake Arrieta on a 3-and-2 pitch in the third. In the fifth, Dickey had two more strikeouts, but his shot at history evaporated on a 1-and-0 pitch when Betemit ripped a line-drive single into right-center.
"A knuckler didn't -- that's a good way to put it," Dickey said. "It just kind of floated right there. I was trying to get a strike from him and he hit it."
Betemit's single was the only clean hit, leaving Collins to joke about what happened against the Rays.
"Do we have a chance to appeal that base hit?" he asked. "Did anybody dive for that ball? I didn't see it. I had a bad view."
Don't worry, Terry. Dickey will get another chance to make the impossible look routine Sunday night against the Yankees.
"This is the best I've ever seen him," catcher Josh Thole said. "It's a challenge for everybody -- me, the umpires. It's pretty nasty."
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