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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Somebody's Perfect (Just About)

Did the Citi Field scoreboard start every Oriole batter’s count at 0 balls and 2 strikes Monday night? You know, just to save time?

I’ve seen hitters obviously overmatched by pitchers. I’ve seen hitters who it could be assumed had little chance against dominant pitchers in ungodly grooves. I’ve seen hitters who had to know it would take a near-miracle to get good wood on an approaching baseball when it left the hand of a pitcher on his best night.

But I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never seen hitters so absolutely defeated across the entirety of every encounter with a given pitcher. I’ve never seen so many endings appear determined in advance since those scenes in Quiz Show where you knew the contestants had been given the answers. I’ve never seen a pitcher carry a veritable shutout into the (how appropriate) 43rd inning of what amounts to an extended game of catch with Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole.

I’ve never seen anything like what R.A. Dickey is doing to opposing batters.

When he began throwing from Olympus rather than a mound in late May, it was pretty standard stuff within the realm of competition. They tried to hit him and they couldn’t. We’ve seen that before. These last two starts, though? Somewhere in the midst of Dickey’s one-hitter against the Rays and through all of Dickey’s one-hitter against the Orioles, the other side simply sent its regrets that it could not attend. I’m not saying a series of professional hitters gave up rather than attempt to make serious contact with Dickey’s assortment of devastating knuckleballs and complementary fastballs. I’m saying it was like they weren’t even at the party.

Which makes Dickey’s starts fairly easy for the Mets to win, provided a hitter or two on our side does something to the other team’s pitcher, who doesn’t necessarily have to be R.A. Dickey to get them out. For five innings, Jake Arietta posed as much of a statistical obstacle to Mets batters as Dickey did to the O’s, in that the Mets couldn’t put anything but 0s on the board against him. Arietta was no Dickey — nobody is a Dickey but Dickey these days — but it was getting a little uncomfortable out there. Here’s R.A., having just completed a string of 13 consecutive hitless innings, yet he’s locked in a nothing-nothing duel as if he is somehow capable of being matched by any pitcher.

We know different. We know that it can be Jake Arietta or it can be Matt Cain or it can be Denton True “Cy” Young. We know nobody can measure up to the R.A. Dickey of this very special moment in the life of the New York Mets franchise. But Dickey wasn’t winning, and if he wasn’t winning, the chance remained, no matter how preposterous, that he could lose.

Which would just be wrong.

Fortunately, all potential for wrong was righted by Ike Davis, who owes his pitchers a few grand slams and started paying them back by belting the decisive blow with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the sixth. Most nights that would be a pretty big story unto itself. Ike was scuffling under .160 ten days ago and now he’s speeding toward the exit of the dreaded interstate, driving the ball with the kind of power we vaguely recall from his younger, more robust days. Maybe Ike Davis, 25 and wanting no part of Buffalo, is back.

Surely, R.A. Dickey, 37 and barely of the same planet as the rest of us, is present. He is here as much as the Baltimore batters were absent Monday night. Oh, they could be seen at the plate, standing in the box, watching the ball go by, even swinging sometimes for effect. Dickey struck out 13 Orioles, a few of whom scowled unhappily at Eric Cooper’s interpretation of the strike zone. Most of them, however, knew what was coming and accepted the outcome with minimal physical resistance.

They could have tried harder to hit his unhittable pitches, but what would have been the point of that?

8 comments to Somebody’s Perfect (Just About)

  • Dave

    I admire how you’re able to keep writing about RA Dickey. I’ve completely run out of things to say about him.

  • pfh64

    I know we all probably would not feel this way, if it was another team’s player, but it has been a long time, since a pitchers’ start in this town was must see (1984/5 Doc). I spent all night watching the game, shaking my head in disbelief.

  • Stefanie B

    I loved Josh Thole’s comment after the game when he was asked if he and Nickeas confer on how to catch this stuff. He said, “There’s nothing we can do for each other. You just have to go out there and hope you catch it.”

  • Metsmom

    Durung the past few years of bad Mets baseball & collapses, I promised my son that someday his suffering woukd be rewarded. After the no-hitter & R.A.’s last 2 starts, I looked at him yesterday and told him this was “soneday.” What an amazing display of pitching. It’s been a long time since watching this team was so much fun, & we plan to enjoy every minute.

    • mikeL

      yea, funny. all during the off-season i commiserated with another mets fan about how hard the team would be to watch this year.
      who knew we’d be in for – not only a team that would be fun to watch and root for every day – but pitching performances for the ages, seemingly every fifth day.

      last night was especially fun…and when it seemed like RA was getting a little tired and losing his control, he toyed with the last couple of batters and put it away!

  • Lenny65

    Strike zone, shmike zone…that knuckler was dancing and wiggling like an aging Vegas stripper on rent day. I’ve seen them all: Seaver, Koos, Doc, Coney…R.A. is in a zone with any of them right now. Sure, he’s not going to go 26-1 (probably) but damn, this is simply incredible. If he isn’t the All-Star starter I’m passing out the torches and pitchforks and I don’t really care if catching him gives Molina fits.

  • Andee

    I was surprised Showalter didn’t check Dickey’s ball for scuff marks. It seems like the kind of thing Buck would do just to mess with Dickey’s head, even if he knows that scuffing is the last thing a k-baller wants to do to a ball.

    I’m just stunned by all this; I knew the guy was underrated the last few years, but guldang. Not to take anything away from guys like Cain and Kershaw and Strasburg, but guys like them are expected to be successful. Who could ever expect a 37-year-old journeyman knuckleballer to dominate hitters like this? It’s unprecedented. By all rights, he should start the ASG; I’m sure Thole would be happy to let Molina borrow the pancake glove just for the occasion.

    Speaking of which, I gotta give Thole and Nickeas props for how they’ve handled him. It’s like trying to catch a dragonfly covered in Silly String. I almost want Molina to look ridiculous trying to catch it. But La Russa will almost certainly pick Lynn (who lost his third tonight, FWIW) to start the game, unless Matheny asks him not to. But hey, Terry will pick RA to start next year’s game, right?

    (hides under furniture)