SAN FRANCISCO — Giants manager Bruce Bochy is all-too-familiar with dealing with knuckleball pitchers. During his catching days, he was stationed behind the plate, on the receiving end of Joe Niekro’s own knuckleball.
He summed up the experience in one sentence Sunday before the Giants’ series-clinching 7-1 win against the Atlanta Braves in front of another sell-out crowd at AT&T Park.
“I can tell you it’s more fun hitting off a knuckleballer instead of catching one,” Bochy said.
The Giants’ players, however, could not relate. At least not entirely — during R.A. Dickey’s last contest against San Francisco, in 2013 while he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, the now-42-year-old coasted through 8 1/3 innings and allowed just two singles.
Sunday was a much different story. San Francisco stormed out, racking up a season-high seven runs, all delivered during the opening three frames of the contest. Brandon Crawford, who was previously hitless in nine prior attempts facing Dickey, scored three of the runs with a single and a sacrifice fly. Gorkys Hernandez and Eduardo Nuñez tallied RBI singles of their own.
Dickey had very poor command of the pitch from the opening frame of the contest — a 23-pitch first inning resulted in two runs. Before the second inning had come to a close, the veteran Braves pitcher had already walked three and San Francisco had scored four runs. Bochy attributed that to the trademark winds of AT&T Park.
“The ball was moving quite a bit and we did benefit from some walks, but we got six hits,” Bochy said afterward. “If you get six hits, it’s good to do it in a bunch like we did in the first three innings. That’s how we put the big numbers up and won the game.”
Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki can relate to the words Bochy shared during his pregame interview.
“It’s a new adventure every time he goes out there,” Suzuki said.
Dickey eventually found his stuff, retiring the last 12 hitters he faced in a six-inning stint. Giants catcher Buster Posey had a theory on the matter.
“That thing was moving all over the place,” Posey said. “I think the adjustment he (Dickey) made later in the game was just taking some velocity off of it and it looked like he was able to control it a little bit better.”
Regardless, Posey was happy to not have to share the workloads that Bochy was once charged with, and the workload Suzuki was charged with on Sunday.
“It’s not fun to hit, it doesn’t look fun to catch, either,” he said.