NEW YORK -- Just how dismal is it these days for the Marlins?
On Saturday, Ozzie Guillen had just 10 healthy position players at his disposal and two of those — Scott Cousins and Gil Velazquez — were on vacation this time a week ago, their seasons supposedly over.
On top of that, the Marlins’ one-man wrecking ball that is Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was on the mound at Citi Field. Dickey was bidding for his fifth consecutive victory over the Marlins this season and eighth in a row overall.
The Marlins and their decimated lineup were no match for Dickey and the Mets, who held on for a 4-3 victory that embedded Miami deeper in last. The pitcher took a shutout into the ninth before John Buck broke it up with a three-run, foul-pole shot off reliever Jon Rauch.
Dickey is now 19-6 and could become the first pitcher ever to go 5-0 or better against the Marlins in a season. Dickey could face the Marlins on closing day, Oct. 3 in Miami.
Asked what makes Dickey so successful, Marlins outfielder Bryan Petersen replied: “He has a knuckleball. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to hit one before. And it was windy. It goes left. It goes right. It goes up. It goes down. Sometimes it stays straight, and that’s probably the one you should hit. But you’re not expecting it to do that. And he’ll throw you a fastball sometimes, and you forget he’s got that, too.”
Dickey’s knuckler was playing its usual tricks Saturday, as he held the Marlins to only six hits over eight innings-plus. Three of those hits belonged to Donovan Solano. Velazquez had two. Gorkys Hernandez tallied one.
All three of those Marlins spent a chunk of the season in the minors, which gives some indication of the lineup Guillen is left to work with. The Mets have had a lousy season. But as bad as they are, they’ve proved superior to Miami, winning 10 of the 14 meetings so far.
Jason Bay, hitting .153 entering the game, blasted a two-run homer off Mark Buehrle in the second inning.
Scott Hairston hit a solo shot off him in the fourth. The Mets added what proved to be the deciding run in the fifth when first baseman Carlos Lee bobbled a ground ball and made a hasty throw to the plate that was not nearly in time to get Josh Thole for the out.
Dickey nearly blew the game open in the sixth with his bat. After Buehrle purposely walked Thole to load the bases and bring up Dickey, a career .185 hitter with no home runs, the pitcher blasted one to left that the wind took to the wall.
Petersen had to race back and make a leaping catch to record the inning-ending out.
“The wind was crazy, and we were playing in, obviously, with Dickey up,” Petersen said. “So you put your head down and run.”
It was the last batter that Buehrle would face. Buehrle, who is hoping to finish the season with at least 200 innings for the 12th consecutive year, now sits at 194 1/3 innings with two starts remaining.
Dickey was lifted in the ninth after giving up a leadoff walk to Greg Dobbs and a double to Solano.
Rauch took over, and Buck promptly lofted a 1-1 pitch down the line in left. The ball struck the foul pole, but umpires did not rule it a home run until checking the video replay.
“I thought it was foul,” Buck said. “I even stopped at the plate.”
The Marlins managed to put the tying run at second with two outs, but Rauch struck out Hernandez to end the game.
Buck said it’s not as though the Marlins are the only team Dickey has been beating this year, even though it might seem that way.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s good,” Buck said. “It’s not like he’s just had our number. But he’s pitched against us probably more than anyone else. We can single-handedly hand him the Cy Young.”