By The Sports Xchange
ATLANTA — R.A. Dickey appears to be trending in the right direction.
The veteran pitched his best game of the season, baffling the Philadelphia Phillies for seven innings to break a personal six-game winless streak, helping the Atlanta Braves to a 3-1 victory Thursday.
“For whatever reason in my career, I’ve started slowly, and hopefully this is the beginning of the next four months of it being nice and tight,” Dickey said.
The knuckleball specialist allowed one run and three hits, and he retired 15 consecutive batters from the second through sixth innings.
Dickey (4-4) struck out a season-high eight batters in his first start with catcher Tyler Flowers behind the plate. He did not walk a batter for the first time in 12 starts this season and won for the first time since May 2 after going 0-2 with four no-decisions.
“I’ve been real close in a number of outings,” Dickey said. “I feel like my performances have been a little bit better than the statistics were showing. I always knew that. I told Snit (Atlanta manager Brian Snitker) at the end of the night that this is more of what I feel like you should expect out of me.”
Snitker said, “I talked to him after the seventh and he was happy. I think going forward he can build on this.”
Dickey became the third consecutive Atlanta starter to work seven innings.
Jim Johnson worked a scoreless ninth inning and earned his 12th save.
The win gave Atlanta a split of the four-game series. Philadelphia leads the season series 5-2.
Phillies rookie Ben Lively (1-1), making his second major league start, worked around nine hits and two walks over seven innings to allow only three runs. He struck out three.
“You’ve got to be happy with Lively’s performance,” Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s a real battler. Threw a lot of strikes, walked a couple guys, not a lot of strikeouts, but he battles, comes right at you.”
Lively has pitched seven innings in his first two starts, which gives the pitching-poor Phillies a good building block.
“Stay strong,” Lively said. “How I pitched got me here. … Keep throwing strikes and keep being that bulldog.”
Atlanta’s 11-hit attack was led by Brandon Phillips, Matt Kemp, Matt Adams and Flowers with two hits apiece.
The Braves scored twice in the first inning. Ender Inciarte walked and went to third on Phillips’ double. Inciarte scored when Nick Markakis grounded to second base, and Phillips scored on Kemp’s double.
Lively allowed the Braves to get runners in scoring position in the second and third innings but did not give up a run.
“He didn’t have the velocity (in the first inning),” Mackanin said. “I was surprised. And all of a sudden, after the second or third inning, he started throwing harder. He battles you. That’s two in a row, seven innings. That’s what we needed.”
The Braves went ahead 3-0 by scoring a run in the sixth inning. Adams singled and scored when Flowers doubled over the head of Philadelphia center fielder Odubel Herrera.
Philadelphia got a run in the seventh. Herrera doubled to left — his 12th straight extra-base hit and league-leading 22nd double — and scored when Maikel Franco fisted a single to the opposite field in right. Herrera was able to just beat the throw home from Markakis with a slide.
The Phillies got runners on the corners in the eighth with two outs against Atlanta reliever Arodys Vizcaino, but lefty Ian Krol retired Herrera to end the threat.
Philadelphia had only four hits and left four runners on base.
“We got up early and then (Dickey) shut them down,” Atlanta left fielder Matt Kemp said. “You saw a lot of ugly swings. That meant his ball was moving.”
NOTES: Phillies CF Odubel Herrera has doubled in each of the past six games, tying the franchise record and making him the third player since 1913 to do it. … The Braves grounded into two more double plays Thursday to extend their league-leading total to 65. … Philadelphia purchased the contract of RHP Casey Fien from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday and designated LHP Joely Rodriguez for assignment. … Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said RHP Joaquin Benoit (left knee strain) will work a bullpen session Friday and could be activated as early as Saturday. … Philadelphia continues its three-city road trip with the start of a three-game series in St. Louis on Friday. The Phillies will send RHP Jeremy Hellickson (5-3, 4.50 ERA) against St. Louis RHP Michael Wacha (2-3, 4.67). … Atlanta continues its homestand with a four-game set against the Mets. The Braves start RHP Julio Teheran (5-4, 5.40) against New York RHP Matt Harvey (4-3, 5.43) in the opener.