NEW YORK (AP) — R.A. Dickey was changing speeds with his dancing knuckler and pumping in plenty of strikes. And by the time he made it through six spotless innings Saturday, he figured he just might be able to pitch the first no-hitter in New York Mets history.
Dickey took his no-hit bid into the seventh, David Wright hit a tiebreaking double in the eighth and New York beat the slumping Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader, sending the NL East champions to their seventh straight loss.
“I had the type of knuckleball today where I thought I had the chance, and I don’t often say that,” Dickey said.
Shane Victorino doubled with one out in the seventh for Philadelphia’s first hit, and Dickey wound up with a no-decision.
Cole Hamels pitched seven sharp innings for the Phillies, allowing only a pinch-hit homer by Valentino Pascucci that tied the score in the seventh. The left-hander, 3-10 in 17 starts against the Mets, yielded four hits and struck out seven.
Hamels said he’ll start again on three days’ rest Wednesday night in Atlanta, using the regular-season finale as his final tuneup for the playoffs.
The Phillies have already wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Winless since clinching its fifth straight division title last Saturday, Philadelphia is in the midst of its longest losing streak since a seven-game skid in June 2006.
“To lose seven in a row, I think that’s not who we are,” Hamels said. “It’s kind of more depressing and angry at the same time. Just because I know we’re a good team and we’re not winning. So it’s becoming very frustrating because you expect more out of everybody, and we’re not able to do it.”
After a rainout Friday night, the Phillies were playing their third doubleheader in 10 days. The wet weather Friday gave them their first day off since Aug. 28, when they were rained out due to Hurricane Irene.
A switch-hitter, Victorino batted right-handed to get a better look at Dickey’s knuckleball. He snapped an 0-for-20 slide with his seventh-inning double and scored when Ryan Howard followed with a single.
“That knuckleball started to flatten out just a little bit. I hung one, he hit it. At least it wasn’t Cole Hamels,” Dickey said. “In retrospect, I was glad it wasn’t a pitcher that broke it up this time.”
On Aug. 13 last season, Hamels had the only hit in the sixth inning of a one-hitter by Dickey in a 1-0 victory over the Phillies.
The Mets have never thrown a no-hitter. Born in 1962, they are closing in on 50 full seasons without one.
Bobby Parnell (4-6) retired Placido Polanco on a grounder with two on to end the eighth. Manny Acosta got three outs for his third save. Philadelphia had two on when Carlos Ruiz flied out to end it.
Ruben Tejada singled with one out in the eighth off Brad Lidge (0-2) and stole second before Wright hit a grounder inside third base.
New York rookie Dillon Gee was scheduled to start the 7:10 p.m. nightcap against Joe Blanton, with the Phillies planning to use their bullpen extensively.
Hamels, trying to match a career high with his 15th win, let a 1-0 lead slip away when Pascucci went deep with two outs in the seventh for his first major league home run since Oct. 2, 2004, with the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium off Mets lefty Al Leiter.
Pascucci acknowledged he was trying to hit a homer.
“Yeah, definitely. I went out and took a big hack on the first pitch. I figured he’d just try to come right after me,” Pascucci said.
Dickey retired his first 15 batters before walking Ruiz to start the sixth.
With two outs and Ruiz on second, Jimmy Rollins hit a deep drive that sent inexperienced right fielder Nick Evans back to the warning track. Evans, who began the game at first base, got turned around and tumbled to the dirt as he made a tough catch that kept the game scoreless.
“I just prayed,” Evans said.
The crowd of 33,961 got even more excited when shortstop Jose Reyes turned in a nice play for the first out of the seventh. Victorino, however, laced a double into the left-field corner, prompting a warm ovation for Dickey, and then Howard hit an RBI single to center.
Raul Ibanez singled for Philadelphia’s third straight hit, but Dickey got out of the inning when John Mayberry Jr. grounded into a double play. The 36-year-old knuckleballer was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half. He struck out four and walked one in a game that took 2 hours, 27 minutes.
“The tough thing about a knuckleball is there’s no rotation, and rotation helps you with the velocity. So it’s a tricky pitch,” Rollins said. “He had a real good one today. It was dancing. He threw it slow, he threw it hard. He threw it in-between.”
Dickey has been on a roll for two months, putting together a career-best 12 straight quality starts. Hurt by a lack of run support, however, he is 4-5 in those outings.
NOTES: Howard returned to the lineup after missing six games with a sore left ankle. He received an anti-inflammatory injection Monday to relieve the pain. … Phillies 2B Chase Utley and RF Hunter Pence were rested, with both expected in the lineup for the second game. Pence, nursing a strained left knee, struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. … New York LF Jason Bay was lifted in the fourth because of illness. He missed a three-game series at St. Louis during the week with the flu.