NEW YORK — Omar Infante made hitting R.A. Dickey’s dizzying knuckleball look easy. Then again, the Atlanta Braves’ jack-of-all trades All-Star has been making just about everything look easy this season.
Infante homered two pitches after Melky Cabrera hit a tiebreaking shot off Dickey with two outs in the seventh inning and made a smart play in the field, helping the Braves beat the New York Mets 4-2 Friday night.
Infante had four hits off Dickey and scored twice to help Atlanta open a four-game lead over New York, its biggest margin of the season. Originally slated to play right field, Infante switched to third base when Chipper Jones became a late scratch because of back spasms. Infante came up big when he fielded Josh Thole’s attempted sacrifice in the fifth and made the turn to throw out the lead runner at third.
“That’s why he’s on the All-Star team. I don’t see why anyone could second-guess that one,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “They got a great one. He can play center, right, left, second, shortstop really good and third.”
Cox was referring to backlash from fans and pundits after Infante made the NL All-Star squad despite having only 184 at-bats, two homers and 23 RBIs.
Billy Wagner made his first appearance at Citi Field against his former team and received mostly boos when he was announced. He pitched a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 23 opportunities.
Troy Glaus had a two-out RBI single and Cabrera scored on shortstop Jose Reyes’ two-out error in the first as Atlanta improved to 21-25 on the road. The Braves took two of three from the Phillies before coming to New York, where they were swept in a three-game set April 23-25.
Dickey (6-2) had two hits and scored twice for the Mets, who have lost consecutive games at home for the first time since May 9-10. They dropped two of three to the NL Central-leading Reds before an off day Thursday.
“We’re just not clicking offensively right now,” manager Jerry Manuel said of the Mets, who were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. “We got a good team and we’ll be fine.”
The Braves also had trouble with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 10. They put runners on base in every inning except the sixth against Dickey but failed to capitalize.
“I don’t think we hit the ball hard until the homers. He’s legit,” Cox said.
Tommy Hanson made the Mets look silly on occasion, too. He mixed a low-90s (mph) fastball with a sharp curve and slider to strike out six in his second straight solid start. He was lifted with runners on second and third and two outs in the sixth.
“I felt good with all my pitches,” Hanson said.
Eric O’Flaherty (3-1) got pinch-hitter Jesus Feliciano to ground out, ending the threat.
Dickey got the first two outs of the seventh before Cabrera hit the first pitch he saw off the second deck in right for a 3-2 lead. Infante made it a two-run cushion with a drive to left.
“He’s just an unbelievable player,” Hanson said.
Dickey gave up nine hits and four runs — three earned — in 6 2-3 innings and has lost his last two decisions.
“Sometimes you make mistakes,” he said. “Unfortunately tonight, within three pitches, they hit them out.”
The Braves scored in the first when Reyes, limited to batting right-handed because of a sore left side, couldn’t handle Glaus’ two-out grounder behind second base.
Glaus gave the Braves a 2-1 lead in the fifth with an RBI single.
Dickey scored the Mets’ first run on David Wright’s sacrifice fly in the third. He scored again in the fifth to make it 2-all on Reyes’ double that froze left fielder Eric Hinske.
NOTES: Braves rookie OF Jason Heyward, on the 15-day disabled list with a deep bone bruise in his left thumb, was not with the team and will be examined by doctors in Atlanta on Saturday. If all goes well he will take batting practice with Triple-A Gwinnett for two days before deciding if he is well enough to play in the All-Star game Tuesday night. ... The Mets optioned RHP Ryota Igarashi to Class-A St. Lucie to work on his consistency and developing his secondary pitches. He was 1-1 with a 7.91 ERA in 22 games for New York. The Mets also recalled INF-OF Nick Evans from Double-A Binghamton to provide a right-handed bat off the bench. He struck out in the seventh.