The knuckleball is a unique pitch, and few throw it


New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey is the only pitcher who throws it in the major leagues, and he’s having quite a bit of success with it.

Going into Wednesday’s start againstTampaBay, Dickey was 9-1 with a scoreless streak of 24 2/3 innings. AtWashingtonlast week, Dickey held the Nationals to four hits in just more than seven innings in a 3-1 win.

“Literally, when I go out there, the only streak I care about is getting that hitter out,” Dickey said.

Dickey struck out Nationals teen sensation Bryce Harper twice.

“He throws it hard, throws it soft. Sometimes, it starts at your face and goes down through the strike zone. It was pretty fun to face him, but going 0-for-4 is not fun,” Harper said.

Dickey pitched a complete game, 5-0 shutout overSt. Louison June 2, and heldSan Diegoscoreless in 7.1 innings pitched of a 2-0 victory on May 27. He had a seven-game win streak going into this week.

Against the Cardinals, Dickey gave up seven hits while striking out nine and walking none in his third career shutout.

The 37-year-old pitcher is in his 10th season in the majors. Dickey began his major league career withTexasin 2001 before pitching forSeattleandMinnesota. In his best season, Dickey went 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 2010 with the Mets.

After failing to achieve success as a conventional pitcher, Dickey turned to the knuckleball at the start of the 2006 season, and has worked on perfecting it ever since.

He throws the fluttering knuckler at speeds of 59 to 80 mph. Dickey credits a harder knuckleball in giving him a later break on the pitch.

“I feel comfortable with where I am with the pitch,” Dickey said. “Look, it’s a knuckleball. It can be fickle.”

Before this week, Dickey’s previous best scoreless streak was 18 innings in 2010. He had 78 strikeouts in 81 innings going into Wednesday’s game.

“I’m getting more swings and misses,” Dickey said. “Other than that, I’m not doing anything differently. I’m trying to induce them into hitting pieces of the ball, not getting solid contact.”

StatsWatch: Here are the major league leaders in saves (through Monday):

  • Chris Perez, Indians, 20 saves
  • Craig Kimbrel, Braves, 18
  • Fernando Rodney, Rays, 18
  • Jim Johnson, Orioles, 18
  • Joel Hanrahan, Pirates, 17

Diamond Notes: Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract extension this week. The deal includes a $17.5 million club option for 2018…The Chicago Cubs won the bidding war among several other teams for 20-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, giving the player a nine-year deal worth $30 million…Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver tested in injured lower back in the bullpen at Dodger Stadium early this week. Weaver, who was placed on the disabled list on May 29, was scheduled to throw a simulated game by the end of the week and could return for next week’s series at home against San Francisco…Angels outfielders Torii Hunter and Mike Trout were named co-winners of the AL Player of the Week award. Hunter hit .500 last week while Trout hit .520. In the NL, Arizona outfielder Jason Kubel and Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster shared NL honors. Kubel hit .409 with 12 RBIs and Dempster won both of his starts, throwing 15 scoreless innings.

Copyright © 2012  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media. 

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