R.A. Dickey turned in a masterful performance, probably his best of the year. He went 8 innings and surrendered only 4 hits and no bases on balls. Vizcaino struck out the side in the ninth, which was a perfect contrast to his horrific performance the night before, when he walked 3 consecutive batters with the bases loaded. I guess Wednesday was just Bizarro Arodys. The Braves put together just enough offense to win 3-2. Ozzie Albies was the offensive star, with 3 hits, an RBI, and a run scored.
Dickey hinted after the game that he may retire after the season. I’ve got to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed his tenure with the Braves. That’s because I’ve always loved the knuckleball and knuckleball pitchers. I was a kid when the Braves came to Atlanta, and for the first 18 of those years, the original Knucksie was the only consistently good pitcher. Phil Niekro was then and always will be my favorite pitcher.In the two pre-1991 pennant winning seasons, 1969 and 1982, Niekro won 23 games in the first and went 17-4 in the second. Last night’s game was especially fun for me because Knucksie joined Chip and Joe in the booth for an inning or so.
I used to argue with my friends in high school who insisted that Niekro wasn’t a real pitcher, that his success was just trickery. Of course that’s nonsense. Throwing a consistent knuckleball must be one of the hardest tasks in baseball, or else more pitchers would rely on it. In my lifetime, there has generally been only one or two good knuckleballers active at any one time: Hoyt Wilhelm, the Niekros, Wilbur Wood, Charlie Hough, Tom Candiotti, Tim Wakefield, and Dickey. As Knucksie told Chip and Joe, the key is practicing constantly and always trusting the knuckler.
No Braves starter in 2017 will accumulate even 2.0 WAR. Phil Niekro had over 2.0 WAR in 17 seasons. He had over 6.0 in 7 seasons, including 10.0 in one and 8.9 in another.
One more home series this year, against the juggernaut that is the Philadelphia Phillies (at least against your Atlanta Braves).