By HOWIE RUMBERG, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ R.A. Dickey wasn’t feeling it Saturday. The air was heavy with humidity, his legs were tired and he had to make a mad dash up the first base line in the fourth inning.
Still, a so-so outing for the knuckleballer in his best season as a big leaguer looked pretty dominant.
The 37-year-old first time All-Star helped his own cause for his 16th victory, driving in a run with an infield single and pitching seven solid innings as the New York Mets ended a six-game skid by beating the Houston Astros 3-1.
“We think this guy’s invincible. He’s starting to get as run down just as much as anybody else,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Justin Turner hit his first homer of the season and Jason Bay snapped a 0-for-14 slump with an RBI single in the eighth to end a stretch of offensive futility for the Mets. New York went seven straight games without scoring more than two runs for the first time since September 1982.
“He drove in the first run,” Turner said of Dickey. “I guess to take the pressure off the offense.”
The run-scoring hit brought cheers for Bay from the 29,906 in attendance on Mike Piazza bobblehead day. The struggling slugger came in hitting .145 and was only playing because Houston starter Fernando Abad was a left-hander. He received mocking cheers when he walked in the fourth but was otherwise booed lustily.
Dickey (16-4) again showed why he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, giving up just five singles in tying the NL’s Gio Gonzalez and Johnny Cueto and the AL’s Jered
Weaver and David Price for the major league lead in wins.
“I did some things that might’ve gassed me more,” Dickey said.
“I didn’t feel great. My legs weren’t great.”
One of those things was his little chopper that landed about 40 feet up the first base line in the fourth inning that gave the Mets their first hit with runners in scoring position this series.
They were 0 for 4 in a 3-1 loss to the hapless Astros on Friday night and had been 0 for 5 against Abad (0-1).
Dickey beat out the play when Abad bounded off the mound and picked up the ball just as catcher Jason Castro barreled into him, the pair tumbling to the turf while the lefty flipped the ball to first base. The desperation toss arrived too late and the Mets had the lead. The RBI was Dickey’s third this season and 10th of his career.
“I thought I needed to try and get it, it was not a good decision for me,” said Abad, who was making his first big league start.
Dickey didn’t get much of a breather after the sprint up the line as Andres Torres struck out to end the inning.
The right-hander then gave up consecutive one-out hits in the fifth to Castro, Brandon Barnes and Brian Bogusevic. But pinch-hitter Steve Pearce grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to preserve the lead.
Turner’s homer leading off the sixth against reliever Mickey Storey just squeaked over the old homer wall in the left-field corner for a 2-0 lead.
Dickey started off the seventh by hitting Scott Moore with a pitch and Tyler Greene followed with a single to put runners on first and third. Ronny Cedeno made a leaping catch at second base for the first out then Moore scored on a wild pitch. After a walk, Bogusevic ended the rally with a double-play grounder to short.
Collins hit for Dickey in the bottom half after the durable staff leader had thrown just 86 pitches, his fewest in a start since tossing 84 on July 14. Dickey walked one, hit a batter and struck out two.
“I had a pitch count that I should’ve thrown a complete game,” Dickey said, “but the way I felt it would’ve been selfish of me not to be honest.”
Frank Francisco pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save.
Abad made 81 relief appearances over three seasons, going 1-5 with a 4.65 ERA. He pitched in 30 games out of the bullpen this season and had no record before being sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he pitched for the team’s then-manager Tony DeFrancesco. Now the Astros’ interim manager, DeFrancesco earned his first big league win Friday.
“I told you you were going to be pleased with Abad when he came back,” DeFrancesco said. “For him to go head-to-head today with Dickey, an All-Star and one of the best pitchers in the league is a great achievement for him today.”
NOTES: The Mets recalled OF-1B Lucas Duda after the game. Before the game Collins said Duda would see most of his playing time in left field when he returns. He played mostly in right before being sent down on July 24. … The Astros sent reliever Chuckie Fick to Oklahoma City to make room for Abad. … The Mets honored Piazza, the 12-time All-Star catcher, with a video on the main scoreboard during the game. … A pair of rookies face off Sunday: Houston’s Lucas Harrell (10-9) vs. New York’s Jeremy Hefner (2-5). …. In the fifth inning, Dickey was called for a balk by plate umpire Chad Fairchild but the call was reversed by crew chief Tom Hallion, who was behind the pitcher at second base. Hallion saw that Dickey had in fact stepped off the rubber before throwing to second.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)