HOUSTON (AP) - R.A. Dickey is still searching for control of his knuckleball.
The Houston Astros, though, certainly had no trouble handling it.
Dickey gave up six runs and 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings on Saturday as the Astros defeated the New York Mets 7-3. Dickey (1-5) has lost five in a row and hasn't earned a win since his first start against the Florida Marlins on April 3.
``I think the biggest thing is that he isn't getting ahead,' New York manager Terry Collins said. ``He's not getting ahead in the count. The knuckleball is his pitch, but he's got to make some pitches and get that pitch under control whatever direction it's going to go.'
The Astros jumped on Dickey and his knuckleball in the first as Michael Bourn led off the first with a triple and scored on a groundout by Clint Barmes. Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee followed with singles, and Brett Wallace made it 2-0 on an RBI double.
Lee's hit was the 2,000th of his career.
``Anytime you accomplish something, it's always better when you win,' Lee said. ``You can celebrate and have fun. It's a lot easier.'
Chris Johnson and Bill Hall added run-scoring singles to make it 4-0.
``Some of it is that I didn't execute some pitches,' Dickey said. ``Usually, it doesn't spiral out like that. It's just some 'excuse me' swings down the line. Things like that are tough. You would hope to arrest that.'
Collins went out to speak to Dickey in the first to try to give his pitcher a breather and try to break the Astros' momentum.
``For innings, it's really good, and for some innings, it flattens out,' Collins said. ``They weren't hitting them hard, but they were getting hits. You have to stay with it, and continue to try to find the answers to it. He ended up eating some innings.'
Dickey said he went to a more conventional pitching style from the third to fifth innings, relying on pitches other than the knuckleball. The change worked to get him through the fifth as he gave up just three hits.
In the sixth, however, Dickey was chased by a homer by Hall and a pinch-homer by Matt Downs one out later.
``You try not to be too hard on yourself, but this game will challenge your internal fortitude when you have outing after outing after outing where the ball keeps finding holes,' Dickey said. ``I feel like it's going to turn. I just have to try to stay consistent with my work ethic.'
Collins is confident Dickey will be able to fix the mistakes he is making with the knuckleball.
``My experience with knuckleball pitchers is they study it, and it's their trade,' Collins said. Nobody knows more in that room about the knuckleball and how to throw it and how work on it than R.A. Dickey. I'm sure he and (pitching coach) Dan (Warthen) will sit down and work on it. I know when he warmed up today, he had an outstanding knuckleball. I don't know what all the issues are, but it's not an easy thing to fix.'
Dickey and catcher Ronny Paulino both said the knuckleball was moving in warmups, so they don't know what happened between the bullpen and the field.
The Mets closed to within 4-1 in the third on an RBI double from Justin Turner to score Jose Reyes, who had doubled. New York got within two at 4-2 after Daniel Murphy homered to start the fourth, but they weren't able to break Astros starter J.A. Happ (3-4), who gave up two runs on five hits with four strikeouts in six innings.
``I thought he made some real good pitches up in the zone,' Collins said of Happ. ``He got his breaking ball down, and he made some outs up in the zone. He changed the eye level, and he was effective.'
Notes: Lee became the 17th active player to reach 2,000 hits, and he is the ninth active player to have at least that many hits while also belting 300 or more home runs. ... Mets RF Carlos Beltran sat out with swelling in his right eye. ... Turner became the seventh Mets player to hit in the No. 2 position this season. ... Bourn leads the National League with 14 steals.
The Associated Press News Service
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