ATLANTA -- R.A. Dickey will get at least one more opportunity to step on a mound and enrich a 15-year career that was fueled by his love for the Braves while growing up in Nashville.
But the veteran knuckleballer still allowed himself to be somewhat sentimental as he attempted to harness the emotions he felt after helping the Braves claim a 3-2 win over the Nationals on Thursday night at SunTrust Park.
"I'd be lying if I said you didn't have some nostalgia about it," Dickey said. "Theoretically, this could have been my last start ever at a home venue. But we'll make that decision at the end of the season and see how I feel and see what goes on and go from there. Tonight was special for me."
Dickey certainly made the most of his final home start of the season, allowing two earned runs on four hits over eight innings. Whether or not this was the last home start of the 42-year-old's career will be determined after the season when he decides whether he wants to retire and the Braves decide whether they want to exercise his $8 million option for the 2018 season.
This has certainly been a special season for Dickey, who has been less than four hours from his family's Tennessee residence and has lived out his childhood dream of playing for the Braves. He was arguably Atlanta's best starter throughout most of the summer before hitting a rough patch that extended over the past couple of weeks.
But as Dickey once again found a feel and confidence for his knuckleball, he made the most of this opportunity that he recognized as possibly his last to entertain the fan base he was once part of. He overcame Ryan Zimmerman's second-inning homer and retired 20 of the 22 batters he faced before allowing the Nationals to tally another run in the eighth.
"It was pretty typical R.A. He prepares great," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "We've been talking about it the last couple days. He's been talking to me, making sure I'm going to catch him and all of that. We went over the lineup seven times within the past two days, but that's how he is every time. He tries to do everything he can to be as prepared as possible."
Dickey's professional approach and attention to detail has certainly provided a good example for Atlanta's young rotation. Even though he gave up at least five runs over his past three starts entering Thursday, the Braves were still contemplating the possibility of bringing him back next year to at least fill a rotation spot until their next wave of prospects are deemed Major League ready.
Though Dickey's 4.32 ERA might not be impressive, he is the only Braves pitcher to complete as many as eight innings twice this season. He has certainly fit his description as an innings eater, completing at least five innings in 28 of his 30 starts.
Dickey has not said he plans to retire, but he is at least making sure he savors what could be the final days of what has been an inspirational career.
"It's an absolute privilege to put on this uniform every time," Dickey said. "I will get emotional if I keep talking. You never want to take a single day for granted. When you put on a uniform that you grew up loving and knowing intimately, it's a special thing, and I never wanted to take that for granted as long as I played the game."