ATLANTA (AP) — R.A. Dickey was locked in a pitching duel with Tim Hudson for seven innings.
Unfortunately for Dickey and the New York Mets, everything unraveled in the eighth.
“At least I was continuing to try to make a really good pitch, pitch after pitch after pitch,” Dickey said. “That’s why you saw a few hits and a little more than I normally walk. I had a good knuckleball, and it was moving quite a bit.”
Hudson struck out 10 and Chipper Jones hit an RBI single in the eighth inning as the Braves beat New York 1-0 Saturday. The win moved the Braves 4½ games ahead of St. Louis for the wild card. The Cardinals lost 9-2 to Philadelphia, which clinched the NL East with its victory.
Hudson (15-10) held the Mets to four hits over eight innings.
Craig Kimbrel earned his 45th save in 51 chances after striking out the side, fanning David Wright, Lucas Duda and Jason Bay.
One day after the Mets beat Atlanta 12-2 and got 20 hits, Hudson and Kimbrel shut them down. The Braves have won three of four and the Mets have lost seven of eight.
Jones, whose career has been full of key hits against the Mets, did it again. He doubled in the seventh and was stranded, but delivered in the eighth.
Dickey (8-13) issued a leadoff walk to Jason Heyward, who moved up on Jose Constanza’s sacrifice bunt and Michael Bourn’s groundout. Martin Prado walked before Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen made a mound visit to discuss how Dickey would pitch to Jones.
Jones faced five pitches, all knuckeballs, before he singled over second base. Dickey nearly got his glove on the ball.
“It was hit right off the barrel, like it was happening in slow motion,” Dickey said. “I saw the break of the knuckleball, and I thought, ‘OK, this is good.’ But then I saw the barrel impact the ball, so I saw it well. I just couldn’t get my glove down in time. It was just to the left of my left foot. It went right under my glove.”
Jones felt fortunate to see the ball clearly as he swung.
“He was really good today,” Jones said. “He had that thing fluttering all over the place. He’s tough.”
Hudson struck out at least 10 for the 12th time in his career. Dickey struck out four in 7 2-3 innings and walked a season-high six.
Dickey held the Braves to three runners through the first five innings — Prado’s broken-bat single in the first and walks to Brian McCann in the second and Freddie Freeman in the fifth.
Hudson escaped trouble in the third with runners on first and second when Dickey struck out on a sacrifice bunt attempt and Jose Reyes grounded into a double play.
The afternoon shadows covering the plate gave the pitchers an early advantage, which came back to haunt Dickey on the strikeout.
“Yeah, but I don’t want to use that as a crutch,” Dickey said. “Everybody had to hit in it. It was a tough visually for me. It looked like a strike the whole way and then it would disappear down for me. I was lost up there from a bunting standpoint. There’s no excuse for it.”
In the New York sixth, Ruben Tejada led off with a single and advanced to second on Hudson’s wild pitch strikeout of Dickey. Hudson walked Reyes on four pitches, but stranded the runners on Angel Pagan’s flyout and Wright’s grounder.
“Our pitcher was good, too,” Reyes said. “It’s too bad we lost the game for him, but you have to give Hudson his credit. He was very tough today.”
Duda led off with a single in the seventh and advanced to second on a groundout by Nick Evans. On the play, it appeared on television replays that shortstop Alex Gonzalez beat Duda to the bag before throwing out Evans, and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez left the dugout to argue with second base umpire Marvin Hudson.
After walking Josh Thole, Hudson struck out Tejada for his eighth strikeout.
“With the way Hudson was pitching,” Mets manager Terry Collins said, “it didn’t really matter who we ran up there too much. ”
NOTES: Mets LF Bay made a diving catch to his right to rob Hudson of a potential leadoff double in the sixth. … Fredi Gonzalez moved Prado to No. 2 in the batting order and put Jones in his usual third spot for the first time in his last eight games. … New York dropped to 16-28 in Atlanta over the last five years. … RHP Dillon Gee, New York’s starter Sunday, lost 5-1 to Atlanta on Sept. 8, but is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA in six career starts against the Braves. Gee is 1-0 with a 0.93 ERA in two starts at Turner Field. … Rookie RHP Brandon Beachy will face New York for the first time in his career. Atlanta is 11-12 in his 2011 starts. Beachy is winless with a 4.24 ERA in his last three starts.