PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) - R.A. Dickey couldn't figure out why fan were clapping so loudly after Justin Ruggiano singled in the top of the sixth inning.
Then the New York Mets kunckeballer noticed the scoreboard.
It was the lone hit Dickey allowed in 6 1-3 innings as the Mets beat the Houston Astros 8-2 Thursday.
``Usually, like last year, after the sixth I knew it,' Dickey said of a no-hit bid. ``On a couple of occasions or maybe one occasion in particular, late in the season. It's kind of spring training, it's kind of a different atmosphere, but I was executing what I wanted to do and that was most important to me.'
Dickey yielded one run, struck out four and walked three. He threw 80 pitches then went to the bullpen for 10 more.
It's the second consecutive strong start for Dickey, who worked two perfect innings against the Miami Marlins on March 15 before a rain delay ended his outing.
Mets starters have pitched well in four of the last five games. Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee each pitched at least 5 2-3 shutout innings, while Johan Santana gave up one run in six innings Wednesday.
The lone hiccup was by Mike Pelfrey, who gave up eight runs in 2 2-3 innings in his last start.
``R.A., even the other day in the rain-shortened game, was throwing as good as he did today, which is tremendous,' Mets manager Terry Collins said. ``I've been very happy. Jon Niese will continue tomorrow and if we get Pelf going, you got to like what we're seeing out of our starting pitching for sure.
``I always thought coming in, just because we don't have a lot of big names, those guys kept us in a lot of games last summer,' Collins said. ``Their health . is huge'
Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez struggled for the second straight outing this spring and said he's doesn't feel like he's on track to be ready for the season.
After allowing seven runs in 3 1-3 innings against the Braves on March 16, Rodriguez gave up four runs and walked five in 3 2-3 innings Thursday. Two of the Mets runs against him came on bases-loaded walks.
``I want to go longer in the game because I need it,' said Rodriguez, who is expected to be the Astros starter on opening day. ``I need to go longer. I missed a lot of balls, a lot of walks today and that's what my mistake was.'
Rodriguez said he would like to throw five or six innings in his next start and focus on pitching inside against right-handed batters.
Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first. Omar Quintanilla added a three-run double in the bottom of the seventh.
NOTES: Mets third baseman David Wright took batting practice for the first time since early March on Thursday morning. The Mets are hopeful Wright, who has been sidelined with a torn rib cage muscle on his left side, can make his Grapefruit League debut early next week. . Astros second baseman Jose Altuve had a close call while standing in the on-deck circle in the fifth inning. Astros catcher Jason Castro let go of the bat after hitting a foul ball, forcing Altuve to drop to the ground to avoid being hit. . Mets center fielder Andres Torres (calf strain) said he's day to day. He did not do any running Thursday, but hopes to play in the next few days. . Mets outfielder Scott Hairston (oblique) has been doing everything except face pitching. He said he doesn't feel any pain when he throws or swings. . Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was at the Mets game Thursday.
The Associated Press News Service
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