The 42-year-old Braves knuckleballer, who hasn’t decided whether he’ll continue pitching after this season, took a two-hit shutout to the seventh inning before allowing two runs and getting no decision in 4-3 loss against his former Mets team at Citi Field.
The Braves blew an early three-run lead and gave up four runs in the final three innings, losing on Travis Taijeron’s walk-off hit over Jace Peterson’s head with one out in the ninth.
It was a 3-0 lead before Dickey gave up a two-run homer to Kevin Plawecki in the seventh inning, and the Mets tied it in the eighth after a two-base throwing error by third baseman Johan Camargo set up an unearned run on an Asdrubal Cabrera sacrifice fly.
Ender Inciarte, who earlier got his 200th hit of the season, made a spectacular diving catch in the left-center gap on Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to prevent a would-be two-run hit on the play.
The Mets completed their comeback win in the ninth when Plawecki led off with a single against rookie left-hander A.J. Minter, who then walked Dominic Smith – the first walk issued by Minter in 14 major league appearances – before getting a strikeout and giving up a walk-off hit to Taijeron, who hit a long fly and was credited with a single because he was mobbed by teammates and never touched second base.
Dickey was charged with five hits, two runs and no walks with four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings, and received a warm ovation from many in the crowd of 21,938 as he left the field in the seventh inning at Citi Field. He’s still appreciated by Mets fans after emerging as a frontline pitcher with their team from 2010 through 2012 including 20 wins and a Cy Young Award in his final season in New York before he was traded to Toronto.
The Braves have an $8 million option on his contract for 2018 and haven’t said whether they’ll pick it up. But it’s believed the decision rests more with Dickey and that he’d likely be brought back by the Braves if he decides to keep pitching instead of calling it a career and staying home in Nashville, where he lives with his wife and four kids.
Dickey could start the final game of the season Sunday at Miami or the Braves could have rookie Max Fried make that start. Dickey said he’d sit down with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez to discuss that situation Wednesday.
After six innings, the Braves had a 3-0 lead and the Mets had only one more hit than Dickey, who singled in the third inning. The Braves staked him to a lead before he threw a pitch, getting a run in the first when Ender Inciarte led off the game with a double that was his 200th hit of the season and scored on a two-out double by Nick Markakis.
The Braves pushed the lead to 3-0 with two runs in the second inning on Peterson’s run-scoring double and Ozzie Albies’ two-out RBI single.
Dickey had a shutout going until the seventh, when Brandon Nimmo singled with one out and Plawecki followed with a long home run on a knuckleball that didn’t move. Two batters later, Dickey gave up a triple to Amed Rosario and was replaced by rookie reliever Dan Winkler, who struck out Taijeron to protect the lead.
Winkler pitched on consecutive days for the first time since returning from his second major elbow surgery.
When Dickey gave up eight runs including three homers in five innings of a 10-5 loss at Washington on June 13, then said afterward that he could tell he was close to turning a corner from mediocrity to good again, reporters could be excused for thinking he might be delusional.
But he proved he knew what he was talking about six days later when he fired seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball against the Giants. Beginning with that game, Dickey posted a 4-2 record and 2.12 ERA in 10 starts through Aug. 13, lasting at least six innings in nine of those 10 games and allowing one or no earned runs in seven of 10.
Then, just when it looked like it would be a no-brainer decision for Dickey to keep pitching beyond 2017 and for the Braves to pick up his option for 2018, he began a late-season slump in which he was 1-3 with a 6.55 ERA and .333 opponents’ average in six starts from Aug. 18 through Sept. 16.
But he ended that skid as Dickey tends to – emphatically. After giving up five or more runs in three consecutive starts, Dickey limited the Nationals to just four hits and two runs in a season-high eight innings for his 10th win of the season and the 120th win of his career.
He followed that up with an outing that was shaping up to be even better Tuesday until Plawecki disrupted things in the seventh inning. Still, Dickey has allowed just nine hits and four runs in 14 2/3 innings over his past two starts. And after issuing 12 walks in 34 1/3 innings during those previous six starts, he’s walked none in his past two outings