NEW YORK - Here's the good news: The Phillies won't face a knuckleballer on Wednesday.

But the scuffling Phillies' offense, which has been held scoreless for 28 of the last 29 innings, may have more problems beyond being unable to hit the fluttering knuckleball.

R.A. Dickey was the latest knuckleballer to stymie the Phillies, pitching six scoreless innings in an 8-0 Mets victory over the Phils tonight.

But even when Dickey exited, the Phillies failed to score. The final three innings may have been more worrisome than the first six.

Clearly, the knuckleball flustered the Phils, who have lost five of their last seven. When Dickey departed, the offense showed life facing a "normal" pitcher. Shane Victorino walked and Placido Polanco doubled to begin the seventh off lefthander Raul Valdes. That was quickly erased.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard struck out. Then, Jayson Werth hit a hard grounder to third that David Wright made a diving play on to retire the side.

In the eighth, Juan Castro reached on a two-out walk. That was it.

And in the ninth, Polanco singled but Howard struck out to end the game.

The Phillies have gone 22 innings without scoring a run against the opponent's starter. In the last two games, the Phillies couldn't score in 14 innings against knuckleballers Tim Wakefield and Dickey. Neither was far from unhittable, but they kept the Phillies off the board.

The Phillies faced knuckleballers in consecutive games for the first time since April 27-29, 1983. They beat Atlanta's Phil Niekro but lost to his brother, Houston's Joe Niekro.

They weren't as fortunate this time.

Before the game, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he wasn't convinced seeing a knuckleballer Sunday would help the Phillies against Dickey.

"We can be a little bit more aggressive in our swing," Manuel said. "That means to hit it you've got to swing at it."

Dickey tied a career high with seven strikeouts, doing it for the first time in six years.

The Phils had plenty of opportunities against Dickey; he allowed seven hits and walked three. They left the bases loaded in both the second and third innings. In the second, pitcher Jamie Moyer struck out to end the inning. In the third, Raul Ibanez lined out to shortstop, squandering another chance.

In the sixth, with Dickey's pitch count surpassing 100, Manuel sent Greg Dobbs to the plate as a pinch hitter for Phillies starter Jamie Moyer. He struck out to end the inning, stranding two runners.

The soft-tossing Moyer didn't have the same success his counterpart enjoyed.

With little room for error, Moyer went five innings, the first time in nine 2010 starts that he failed to pitch at least six innings. He allowed four runs on seven hits. The Mets scored one run in each inning off Moyer with the exception of the third.

Slumping Mets rightfielder Jeff Francoeur entered the game on a 0-for-12 skid. He snapped it with an RBI single in the second. He later drove in another run in the fourth with a sacrifice fly. And in the sixth, he doubled and scored.

Adding insult to injury, Valdes, the Mets reliever, did what no Phillies batter could: In the eighth, he drilled an RBI double to deep right.

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.
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