ATLANTA — From his view in left field, Matt Kemp saw a succession of awkward hacks from Philadelphia’s hitters.
Wasn’t hard to figure out why — R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball was in top form.
Dickey allowed only three hits in seven innings to earn his first win in five weeks and lead the Atlanta Braves over Ben Lively and the Phillies 3-1 on Thursday night.
"You saw a lot of ugly swings," Kemp said. "That meant his ball was moving."
In the seventh, Aaron Altherr struck out and sank to his knee. In the fifth, Maikel Franco’s missed swing sent his bat sailing into the protective netting behind home plate, causing a delay of several minutes.
The 42-year-old Dickey (4-4) set a season high with eight strikeouts . He gave up no walks for the first time this season. He allowed one run in his first victory since May 2 against the Mets.
Afterward, Dickey was relieved.
"I feel like my performances have been a little bit better than what the statistics were showing," he said. "I always knew that."
Dickey said he told manager Brian Snitker "this is more of what I feel like you should expect out of me."
Dickey yielded a leadoff single to Tommy Joseph in the second and didn’t allow another hit until Odubel Herrera’s leadoff double in the seventh. Herrera scored from second on Franco’s single to right field with two outs.
Kemp had a run-scoring double in Atlanta’s two-run first inning.
Jim Johnson pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save.
One day after Mike Foltynewicz gave up only four hits in seven scoreless innings in a 14-1 win for the Braves, the Phillies again struggled at the plate. Herrera’s double was Philadelphia’s only extra-base hit.
Lively (1-1), a rookie right-hander making only his second start, struggled in the first inning. Ender Inciarte walked, moved to second on Brandon Phillips’ double and scored on a grounder to second by Nick Markakis. Kemp’s double drove in Phillips.
Lively didn’t allow another run until the sixth. Matt Adams singled and scored from first when Tyler Flowers doubled over Herrera in centre field. Herrera was slow to react before finally turning too late to run toward the wall.
"The first inning I was pumped up too much, but after that I settled down and started feeling pretty good," Lively said.
Lively allowed three runs and nine hits in seven innings. He has a 2.57 ERA through two major league starts.
Phillies: Joaquin Benoit will throw a bullpen session on Friday as he moves closer to returning from the 10-day DL with a left knee sprain. Manager Pete Mackanin said Benoit is "progressing nicely" and could be activated Sunday.
Braves: Flowers caught Dickey for the first time to give the knuckleball specialist’s usual catcher, Kurt Suzuki, a break. Manager Brian Snitker said he first thought about giving Suzuki a break from the abuse that comes with trying to catch the knuckleball "when he was getting the crap beat out of him" in Dickey’s last start.
BAT STICKS IN NET
Franco’s bat got stuck in the netting behind home plate, too high to be easily reached. A Braves’ grounds crew worker brought a ladder on a cart as field director Ed Mangan helped. Before the ladder could be extended, stadium security guard Joe Copeland managed to untangle the bat from the fans’ side of the net.
With runners at first and second, Inciarte made a running catch at the wall of Cesar Hernandez’ drive off Arodys Vizcaino in the eighth. Inciarte also outran a drive by Altherr in the ninth.
Phillies: A nine-game road trip continues at St. Louis on Friday. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (5-3) is 2-1 with a 5.03 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (5-4) likely will need improved results if he is to extend his personal two-game winning streak in Friday night’s series opener against Matt Harvey and the Mets. Teheran has allowed a combined 10 runs in the two wins, including seven runs in five innings in a 13-8 win at Cincinnati on Sunday.