Giants pounce on knuckeball early, sail to 7-1 win

Kurt Suzuki had a rough go of it Sunday afternoon. The Atlanta catcher ping-ponged at his post, trying to keep R.A. Dickey‘s pitches within the chalk lines around him.

Turns out, catching a knuckleballer is as tough as Suzuki made it look, Buster Posey gathered:

“It’s not fun to hit. Doesn’t look fun to catch, either.”

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.

Fortunately for the Giants (22-30), though, the former Cy Young winner made the hitting part of the knuckleball spectacle a little more bearable. The waterfront breeze and Dickey’s lack of command kept pitches out of the zone, and the 42-year-old allowed six earned runs and five walks — both season highs — in the 7-1 Giants win over the Braves (21-27). The win secured San Francisco’s third straight series win at home.

Coming into the game, Suzuki had only allowed four passed balls when catching the knuckleballer. Fittingly, the Giants scored their first run on a passed ball after Dickey loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a hit. Brandon Crawford tallied three of his team’s six RBI with a pair of singles in the first two innings. Gorkys Hernandez, one of three Giants with a career home run against Dickey — went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

The six-hit, seven-run San Francisco outburst came within the first three innings. Skipper Bruce Bochy was relieved to see his team make the necessary adjustments:

“If you get six hits its good to get them in bunches … Lot of good things happened early. After that, it got quiet.”

Johnny Cueto (W, 5-4, 4.37 ERA) knocked a sac fly in the third to cap the Giants’ scoring for the day. Posey noticed, after that, that Dickey started to take some velocity off his stuff. Dickey (L, 3-4, 4.65 ERA) became the knuckleballer the hitters feared, retiring the next 11 batters he faced. Said Bochy:

“Once he settled down it was tough and we couldn’t get an RBI after the third inning.”

Cueto, on the other end, was grinding through his fifth win and arguably one of his best starts yet, said Posey:

“I thought Johnny was as sharp as he’s been all year.”

Cueto’s pitch count went up quickly, forcing him out of the game with a six run lead after the sixth. After the game he admitted that blisters started to bother him in the later innings.

Still, his breaking stuff and changeup looked nasty again. Cueto struck out eight Braves–including five-straight K’s from the last batter in the end of the first to the start of the third–and gave up one run on a ground out. Despite Cueto’s blister pain, Bochy said Cueto could have dealt with another inning had the lead not been as fat:

“He was Johnny…That was far enough, though. Could he have gotten another inning? Sure.”

Up Next

The Nationals come to town for a three-game series to round out this homestand. Washington the second-best record in the National League with one of the more potent offenses, too, ranking at the top of most major categories. Matt Moore (2-5, 5.28 ERA) will take the mound in Game 1 against Tanner Roark (4-2, 4.32 ERA) for a 1:05 p.m. first pitch Monday afternoon.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.