ST. PETERSBURG — On a night when they couldn't find R.A. Dickey's 80-85 mph heater, the Rays could find consolation.
They likely won't have to face another knuckleball pitcher again in 2012.
Wednesday's highly bizarre pitching throwdown was won by the throwback, in a landslide. As Dickey perplexed the Rays, the Mets pounded David Price en route to a 9-1 romp before a paid audience of 18,496.
Only B.J. Upton's first-inning grounder down the third-base line, ruled a single after David Wright futilely tried to barehand it, separated the 37-year-old Dickey (10-1) from the Mets' second no-hitter this month and second all time.
"(The knuckleball) is like a roller-coaster, you just don't know what it's going to do," said first baseman Carlos Peña, one of four Rays to strike out twice.
"It could cut, it could drift up and away from a hitter, it could cut into a hitter and he could throw it harder, slower. That was an unbelievable pitching performance."
Not to mention an untouchable one. Dickey, who threw 106 pitches and had nine-pitch innings in the fifth and the sixth, struck out a career-high 12 and became the second-oldest Met to toss a one-hitter.
"I've seen some dominant pitching," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But nothing like what he's going through right now."
After Upton's single, Dickey, a .500 big-league pitcher on a staggering career resurgence, retired the next 22 Rays. When Elliot Johnson scored an unearned run in the ninth, after reaching first on a Wright error and moving to third on two passed balls, Dickey's scoreless streak ended at 322/3 innings.
"It's a hot knuckleball," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You've got a combination of velocity with it, movement and the ability to throw it for a strike. … Listen, he's hot right now and he's very good."
For the first four innings, Price (8-4) stood throw-to-throw with Dickey.
Despite walking three of the first seven batters he faced, Price allowed one hit while striking out six through four. Leaning more heavily than normal on breaking stuff, he allowed four hits in the fifth, the most damaging a two-run single by Daniel Murphy that gave New York a 3-0 lead.
He was chased after allowing four consecutive hits to start the sixth, when the Mets scored four runs. The seven earned runs Price allowed matched his career high and matched his total in his previous five starts.
"I didn't have my best fastball," Price said, "so I had to use my other stuff."
The Mets, who have scored 20 in two nights, connected with all of it. First baseman Ike Davis and catcher Mike Nickeas, hitting .181 and .155, respectively, combined to go 4-for-7. Centerfielder Andres Torres (.221) had three hits.
But this night was about Dickey, who tipped his hat to the vocal throng of Mets fans hovering above his dugout as he exited the field.
"He's not your traditional knuckleballer," Upton said. "He throws a hard knuckleball and he was doing different things with it. It was tough to hit."