PHOENIX (AP) - R.A. Dickey's sometimes temperamental knuckleball was on its best behavior Sunday.
Dickey rebounded from his first loss in three months to gain his National League-leading 14th win, and the New York Mets beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-1 for just their third victory in 17 games.
``It kind of comes and goes,' Dickey said. ``I had, surprisingly, a good knuckler from the beginning. I just kept telling myself to stick with it because it was pretty good.'
Dickey (14-2) allowed an unearned run and four hits in seven innings, striking out eight, walking three and hitting a batter. The knuckleballer matched Tampa Bay's David Price for the major league lead in wins. Dickey's only losses have been to Atlanta on April 18 and versus Washington on Tuesday.
``He was the R.A. Dickey we saw in the first half,' Mets manager Terry Collins said.
About the only blemish were the walks, which were Dickey's most since walking three on June 24 against the Yankees.
Scott Hairston had two hits and drove in two runs, and Josh Thole, David Murphy and David Wright each hit RBI doubles for the fading Mets, who split the four-game series.
``We will take the split,' Collins said. ``They have a good team and were playing very, very well before we got here. We'll take it and move on.'
Paul Goldschmidt hit an RBI single in the sixth after the first of Thole's two passed balls in the inning as the Diamondbacks lost for only the third time in 13 homes games.
Chris Young struck out three times against Dickey.
``He's 14-2 and that's not by mistake,' Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. `` (His knuckler) is around the zone and he throws so many strikes. Then he throws it in the zone and then it moves out and you end up swinging at a bad pitch.'
Arizona's Joe Saunders (5-7) gave up four runs, eight hits and three walks in seven innings. Coming off a three-hit, seven-inning performance against Colorado, Saunders has not won consecutive starts since Sept. 12 and 18 last year.
``It would have been nice to win the series, but we ran into a brick wall in Dickey,' Saunders said. ``It's a matter of putting balls in play and we couldn't put any balls in play with any authority.'
Wright hit an RBI double off the base of the right-field wall in the first and scored on Hairston's double. Hairston made 3-0 with an RBI single in the fifth, and Murphy doubled in a run in the sixth.
``It always helps to get more playing time,' said Hairston, who is 11 for 26 in the Mets' past 11 games. ``Last year I could go three or four days without an at-bat and that is some time to try and get into a groove.'
Hairston has been the subject of trade rumors, but has been trying to shut out the distractions.
``Once I get to the ballpark I just focus on doing my job,' he said. ``I know a lot could happen the next few days but right now I am a Met and have enjoyed my time here.'
NOTES: After the game the Mets, optioned OF Kirk Niewenhuis to Triple-A Buffalo and recalled Mike Baxter, who had been on the 15-day disabled list since June 23 with a strained left oblique. ... Collins said he's going to give Wright a break ``in the next few days. He is tired, don't let him kid you.' Wright has two hits in his past 15 at_bats. . Arizona acquired 3B Chris Johnson from Houston for a pair of minor league outfielders. Johnson hit .279 with eight homers and 42 RBIs in 92 games with Houston. ... Mets closer Frank Francisco threw a one-hit, scoreless inning for Double-A Birmingham against Portland. Francisco had been expected to pitch on Saturday but was scratched with soreness in his left side. ... RHP Jeremy Hefner will take the mound against LHP Madison Bumgarner on Monday as the Mets open a four-game series at San Francisco. ... The Diamondbacks continue a stretch of 20 consecutive games with a day off when RHP Trevor Cahill faces RHP Aaron Harang and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. Cahill is 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in his past two road starts.
The Associated Press News Service
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