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R.A. Dickey wins with a 'fair' knuckleball

R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets pitches

R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. (July 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- R.A. Dickey got the Mets as far he could, and for the first time in a while, it was far enough. Pushing ahead with a knuckleball that he deemed "fair" to "average," Dickey willed his way into the eighth inning of Thursday's 9-5 victory over the Nationals to become the first 13-game winner in the National League.

More importantly, he helped snap the team's six-game losing streak. It was the Mets' first victory in 12 days -- Dillon Gee nailed that one down on the Saturday before the All-Star break -- and that made Dickey's effort more significant, even if this was not among his pitching Picassos.

"I've got to iron some things out," Dickey said. "But hey, to have a fair knuckleball and win against that lineup, I consider that a good outing."

Dickey did exactly what the Mets hoped he would -- return to form and maybe relieve some of the recent stress on the bullpen. Heading into the game, Dickey had a 5.19 ERA in his previous four starts, a startling lapse that raised his ERA from 2.31 to 2.66. But Dickey reversed that trend by mostly keeping the Nats in check as his teammates built a 9-1 lead.

"When you get into streaks, if you get past four games, that means they're beating your aces," Terry Collins said. "That's when you can run into some trouble and we needed one of them to stand up and R.A. did it."

After Ryan Zimmerman's first-inning homer cut the Mets' lead to 2-1, Dickey kept the Nats off the scoreboard until the sixth, when Mark De Rosa led off with a double and scored on Danny Espinosa's two-out single. But overall, Dickey allowed 10 hits -- one short of his season high -- and gave up four runs (three earned).

"I threw a lot more fastballs than I normally throw," Dickey said. "I gave up a few more hits than otherwise I probably would have because I stuck with those fastballs. We had such a cushion."

Dickey was satisfied to get through the brutally hot afternoon, but he also emphasized the need for improvement. He was unhappy with himself for a throwing error in the fifth inning -- it didn't hurt him -- and didn't believe that one victory was an aspirin for the headache of a 1-5 road trip.

"I don't know," Dickey said. "I think we probably as a whole played pretty sloppy baseball -- myself included. We feel good about the win, sure, but we know that it's not going to cut it. We've got to get better."

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