ARLINGTON, Texas —The Rangers apparently never figured out how to hit R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball while he was playing for them.
Dickey limited Texas to two runs and six hits pitching into the eighth inning, Adrian Beltre homered and the Seattle Mariners held on for an 8-5 victory Thursday night.
“It is satisfying, but it’s more of a personal satisfaction,” Dickey said. “It’s not like I have any vendetta against the Rangers. This is where I started toward what I’ve become as a pitcher.”
Dickey (3-6) had lost his previous three decisions, but was in control against a lineup that entered the game with a team batting average of .282, tops in the majors. He struck out two and walked one in 7 2-3 innings.
The 33-year-old right-hander was the Rangers’ first-round pick in 1996 and was with Texas for parts of five seasons. Arm problems forced him to begin throwing the knuckler in July 2005, and the Rangers allowed him to become a free agent last year.
In Dickey’s final home trip to the mound for the Rangers on April 6, 2006, the Detroit Tigers tagged him for six homers in 3 1-3 innings of a 10-6 loss, tying a modern-era record for homers allowed. Fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield shares in the dubious distinction.
Dickey was a lot better this time, relying mostly on the knuckler mixed with fastballs.
“You can’t give them any room,” Dickey said. “I was successful because I threw first-pitch strikes. These guys are aggressive early in the count. It’s essentially the same knuckleball I had when I left here. I’ve gained a lot of experience between that time and this time. Before it was kind of throw and hope. I couldn’t control it.”
The Rangers loaded the bases without a hit in the first, but Dickey worked out of the jam by retiring David Murphy on a ground out. Dickey held the Rangers hitless until Josh Hamilton doubled leading off the fourth.
“You’ve got to give the guy credit just because we didn’t do very well against him, but we were always getting ourselves out with a lot of lazy fly balls, weak ground balls,” Murphy said. “Everybody was getting out on their front foot. The hitters have to do a better job. We were in the game in the end, but for the most part, we weren’t.”
Ichiro Suzuki tripled, doubled and scored twice for the Mariners, who had lost nine of their previous 11 and seven of the last nine against the Rangers.
Ramon Vazquez homered and added three RBIs for the Rangers, and Chris Davis went 3-for-4.
Texas rallied in the ninth, cutting into an 8-2 deficit on Vazquez’s RBI single and Frank Catalanotto’s two-run double. But Mariners closer J.J. Putz, who entered the game in a non-save situation, got the final two outs.
“We ran into a pitcher we couldn’t solve,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Once we got Dickey out of there and saw normal pitching, we started hitting. But it was too late.”
Seattle took a 2-0 lead in the first off Matt Harrison (2-2) on Raul Ibanez’s run-scoring double and Beltre’s RBI ground out.
The Mariners got two more in the second. Jamie Burke reached on an error and scored when Suzuki doubled and went to third on Murphy’s fielding error. Suzuki raced home on Harrison’s wild pitch.
Seattle bumped the lead to 6-0 in the fourth when Miguel Cairo scored from third on Jeremy Reed’s RBI fielder’s choice, and Suzuki followed with a sacrifice fly.
Harrison allowed six runs—four earned—and five hits over 4 2-3 innings, with five walks and two strikeouts in his fifth major league start.
“I felt good in the bullpen,” Harrison said. “But I couldn’t get ahead of hitters. When you fall behind against guys up here, you’re going to pay for it.”
Beltre’s two-run shot in the eighth off Dustin Nippert made it 8-0, but Vazquez broke up Dickey’s bid for his second career shutout with a two-run shot in the eighth.