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Mets turn to red-hot Dickey vs. Nationals

Jun 7, 2012 - 2:35 PM (Sports Network) - R.A. Dickey drew the unenvied task of following up Johan Santana's no-hitter last weekend and put together a solid outing.

This time around, the knuckleballer gets a chance to set the table for his fellow Mets starter and help New York avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals.

Taking the mound one day after Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history last Friday, Dickey responded with a seven-hit shutout of the Cardinals for his second straight scoreless outing. The right-hander had hurled 7 1/3 frames of three-hit ball to beat the Padres on May 27.

"I went to bed last night reminding myself to bring what I bring, whatever that is," stated Dickey afterwards. "[Santana] did a fantastic thing yesterday and I just wanted to give our team a chance to win."

Dickey won his third straight start and sixth decision in a row while posting his third career shutout and first since Aug. 13, 2010. The 37-year-old has only given up one run over his last 23 1/3 innings and has struck out 38 over his past four outings.

"When he's got that knuckleball working like he did today, I feel bad for the hitters," said Mets third baseman David Wright. "I faced him in spring training, and it's not fun. It makes you look foolish. You look up at the radar gun and it's high 60s, low 70s miles an hour."

Dickey gets the start ahead of Santana this time around as manager Terry Collins wanted to give the former Cy Young Award winner some extra rest after throwing a career-high 134 pitches in the no-hitter. Santana is scheduled to start Friday's opener with the rival New York Yankees.

First, Dickey will look to improve on his 8-1 record and 2.69 earned run average through 11 starts this season. He is tied for the major league lead in victories despite a 4.45 ERA in five road starts this season.

Dickey went 1-3 with a 3.82 ERA in five starts versus the Nationals a year ago.

The Mets encounter a former Yankee hurler today in Chien-Ming Wang, who is set for his second start of the season for the Nationals.

After missing the start of the season due to a hamstring injury, just the latest ailment to inflict the former 19-game winner, Wang made his season debut in relief on May 25, beating the Braves with three innings of work in which he allowed one run.

The 32-year-old righty was then inserted into the fifth spot in the rotation by manager Davey Johnson in place of Ross Detwiler and faced the Marlins on Wednesday. However, he suffered a 5-3 setback and was charged with four runs on seven hits and three walks over four-plus frames.

Despite the struggles, Johnson isn't thinking about going back to Detwiler just yet.

"He's in the rotation," Johnson told his club's website of Wang. "He's replacing a guy who threw the ball pretty good for me, but I like the upside of Chien-Ming. ... I know I'm going to get those questions, but Chien-Ming is a quality pitcher and obviously he had some rust on him."

Wang has faced the Mets five times before and is 2-2 with a 4.99 ERA.

Washington had lost four of five prior to this series, but has taken the first two contests to open up a two-game lead for first place in the National League East. After gutting out a 12-inning win on Tuesday, Adam LaRoche homered and drove in four runs to key last night's 5-3 win.

Michael Morse also drove in a run and Edwin Jackson earned his first victory in nine starts after giving up three runs -- two earned -- on just three hits and four walks over seven innings.

"He was exceptional for us tonight," said Johnson of Jackson. "Seven strong innings and he probably had a little bit left in the tank."

The win was the Nats' fourth in a row and eighth in their last nine versus the Mets, who fell 2 1/2 games back of first place in the division.

Jeremy Hefner took the loss after allowing four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits in six innings of work.

"I just didn't get it done and didn't execute my pitches," said Hefner. "They were hitting balls hard in those first three innings. I thought I did a little better in the later innings."

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda and Omar Quintanilla drove in the runs for New York.