ATLANTA — R.A. Dickey knew he was close, even if the results didn’t show it.
He was right.
Dickey threw seven scoreless innings in his strongest outing of the season, Matt Adams hit another homer and the Atlanta Braves sent the San Francisco Giants to their seventh consecutive loss, a 9-0 rout Monday night.
Dickey (5-5) escaped a jam in the first but wound up surrendering just three hits. With his knuckleball baffling the Giants, he retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced, including 13 in a row.
“You know it’s good when they’re swinging and missing,” said Dickey, 42. “That means it’s in the zone for a while, then out of the zone quickly.”
Even after his last outing, when he was tagged for a season-high eight runs by Washington, Dickey insisted his baffling pitch wasn’t far off.
“It’s hard to see sometimes,” he said, smiling. “You have to trust me.”
Of course, it helped to be going against the Giants, whose skid is the longest of a hugely disappointing season. San Francisco dropped to 26-46 and fell a staggering 20 games behind first-place Colorado in the NL West.
“Dickey got in a groove with that knuckleball,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We just couldn’t get the barrel to the ball.”
Adams homered in the fourth off Johnny Cueto (5-7), driving it deep into the right-field seats. The first baseman added an RBI single in the eighth, sparking a seven-run outburst that made it a rout.
He now has 10 homers and 27 RBIs since being acquired from St. Louis on May 20 after Freddie Freeman sustained a fractured wrist.
San Francisco started strong. Denard Span led off a game delayed 44 minutes by rain with a double to left, and Eduardo Nunez reached on an infield single. But Brandon Crawford and Hunter Spence popped out to shortstop, sandwiched around Buster Posey’s strikeout, to leave the runners stranded.
Cueto also went seven strong innings, surrendering five hits and two runs.
The Braves blew it open against San Francisco’s depleted bullpen, scoring all seven runs in the eighth with two outs. Dansby Swanson had a two-run single and Danny Santana hit the first pinch-hit homer of his career, a towering three-run shot off Derek Law that landed in the second deck.
Law faced six hitters, giving up five hits and a walk. He was charged with four runs, boosting his ERA from 4.20 to 5.40.
The Giants will be a man down for six games after Major League Baseball upheld right-hander Hunter Strickland’s suspension. He plunked Washington star Bryce Harper on May 29, igniting a brawl that led to a three-game suspension for Harper, who has already served his time. Strickland will miss all four games in Atlanta, as well as the first two games of a weekend series in San Francisco against the Mets.
The Braves plan to go to a six-man rotation, at least temporarily, when 44-year-old Bartolo Colon returns from the disabled list Wednesday to start against the Giants. He went down June 6 with what was described as a strained left oblique muscle. The move came a day after he gave up eight runs in 32/3 innings against Philadelphia, dropping his record to 2-7 with a 7.78 ERA.