R.A. Dickey's lengthy run of dominance might have come to an end, but he certainly poses a difficult challenge for the reeling Los Angeles Dodgers.
The knuckleballer looks to bounce back from his worst start in more than a month and help the visiting New York Mets hand the Dodgers a season-high sixth straight loss Friday night.
Dickey (11-1, 2.31 ERA) was coming off consecutive one-hitters and had not allowed an earned run over 44 2-3 innings before he gave up four in the third of Sunday's 6-5 home loss to the New York Yankees. The right-hander did not factor in the decision, but allowed five runs and five hits in six innings to end his six-start winning streak.
"As controllable as the knuckleball has been for me, it's still a very fickle pitch from time to time," Dickey told the Mets' official website.
Dickey, 9-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 12 starts since losing at Atlanta on April 18, hopes to get back on track and earn a major league-leading 12th win Friday.
The 37-year-old veteran is 0-1 with a 2.13 ERA in two career starts against the Dodgers. He allowed two hits in 5 2-3 scoreless innings of a 1-0 loss July 25, 2010, his only previous appearance at Dodger Stadium.
Dickey might be the last pitcher Los Angeles (43-34) wants to see in its current state. Though the Dodgers ended their stretch of 33 straight scoreless innings Thursday, they still suffered their ninth loss in 10 games, falling 3-2 to open this four-game series.
"I did see some jumping and hooting and hollering there (after scoring), but we tried to stay focused," Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor said.
Thursday's defeat, coupled with San Francisco's 5-0 win over Cincinnati, dropped Los Angeles out of first place in the NL West for the first time since April 11. The Dodgers have totaled 15 runs and batted .182 over their last 10 games, and getting out of that rut won't be easy as long as outfielder Andre Ethier remains sidelined with an oblique strain.
"At this point, we're kind of day to day," manager Don Mattingly said. "(Wednesday) I kind of assumed we were going to be in a DL situation, but the docs looked at it and didn't see any swelling, so the news couldn't be any better as far as Andre is concerned."
Scheduled Los Angeles starter Aaron Harang (5-4, 3.81) has posted a 3.24 ERA in his last three starts but is 0-1 during that stretch.
After allowing three runs and a whopping eight walks over 3 2-3 innings of a 3-0 loss at Oakland on June 19, Harang yielded three runs and walked two in six innings Sunday while not factoring in the decision of a 5-3 loss to the Angels.
"There were still times I felt a little off, but I was able to keep the ball down in the zone and execute pitches,' Harang told the Dodgers' official website.
The right-hander is 3-3 with a 6.05 ERA in eight career starts against the Mets.
New York third baseman David Wright is 10 for 18 with four doubles and a homer against Harang. After driving in five runs during Wednesday's 17-1 rout of Chicago, Wright delivered a two-out RBI double in the first inning and homered in the fourth of the series opener to raise his season average to .361.
The Mets (41-36) lead the majors with 167 two-out runs.