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?