R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez square off for major league wins lead


(Bill Kostroun/AP)

The last time Dickey pitched against the Nationals, which, incidentally, also came on a midweek matinee at Nationals Park, he dominated. Dickey allowed no runs over 7 1/3 innings while striking out eight. Asked after Wednesday night’s 4-3 win over the Mets if he was looking forward to the challenge of hitting Dickey’s hard knuckler, Adam LaRoche said flatly, “No.”

Manager Davey Johnson could make one adjustment — putting Rick Ankiel in the lineup. Ankiel has 36 strikeouts in his last 78 at-bats, and he hasn’t started since July 1. But he could be perfect for Thursday. According to FanGraphs.com, Ankiel has been more valuable hitting knuckleballs over the past five seasons — 6.1 runs above average — than any player in the major leagues.

“You got to take it back to Wiffle ball in the backyard,” Ankiel said. “That’s what it is. For me, I feel you’ve got three swings at it. But you never know which one is going to be the one that’s not dancing all over the place. To me, I’m going to go up there and take a hack in those three swings.”

When Dickey pitched against the Nationals earlier this year, on June 7, Ankiel did not start. He entered the game as a defensive replacement and drew a walk in his lone plate appearance against Dickey.

“Dickey is different,” Ankiel said. Tim “Wakefield, I feel like you had to try to take it out of the catcher’s glove. You really wanted to see the ball deep. Dickey throws it so hard sometimes, that sometimes you get here” – Ankiel mimicked a swing with his hands – “and it’s by you.”

Gonzalez will try to build on an exquisite first start of his second half of the season, when he allowed two runs and struck out nine over six innings. He’ll throw his sharp curve and mid-90s fastballs, and Dickey will push his knuckleball over at 80-plus mph. It will be fun for everybody but the hitters.

More on the Nationals and MLB:

From the archives: R.A. Dickey, the Most Interesting Man in Baseball

Zimmermann extends recent dominance in win

Box score: Nationals 4, Mets 3

Boswell: Johnson is managing at his peak

Storen could be activated Thursday

Werth is ready for rehab assignment

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.

sports

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read

sports

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters