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Could R.A. Dickey be the first knuckleballer to get the Cy Young? It's beginning to look like it, after he won his 20th on Thursday.
This is not a lost season. We've learned more about your young pitching, Ruben Tejada has shown us that he can be a slick defender at short and patient asset with the bat, Daniel Murphy stayed healthy and proved he can play second base, Ike Davis and David Wright found something they had lost, and Keith Hernandez has lost something he'd found... and R.A. Dickey gave Mets fans a season to remember.
Let's just put the Cy Young contenders in one place, with Dickey's numbers updated past today's game:
Looks like Dickey has eight wins and eleven strikeouts on Clayton Kershaw, one win and 50 strikeouts on Johnny Cueto, and ERA, WHIP and 20 strikeouts on Gio Gonzalez. If the voters want to give it to a reliever, they might be stymied -- Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman could easily split that vote. Dickey's WAR isn't updated here, but it makes sense to go with results over FIP-based metrics when looking at awards, and nobody's WAR is far and away the leader here. Dickey is in the catbird seat.
He'd be the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young. He'd be the first knuckleballer to win 20 games since both Joe Niekro and Phil Niekro did it in 1979. If he gets two more strikeouts this season, he'll have had more single-season strikeouts than any knuckleballer not named Phil Niekro, too. You can play around with this custom list of knuckleballers I made, but it's clear that he's quickly risen to the top of his cohort.
Thursday, he started out iffy. In the second inning, a few knucklers didn't look right, and the hard-swinging Bucs drove the ball when they made contact. Garrett Jones doubled. Travis Snider singled. Rod Barajas hit a ground-rule double. In the end they scored two runs and the Mets knew they had to score to win.
In the bottom half of the inning, Ike Davis hit a home run on a massive poke to center that looked effortless. Mike Baxter hit a long drive that looked like it might pull the Mets even, except this happened:
There was a moment when twitter was filled with #blameKeith hashtags, and talk of curses. There was a moment when everyone worried that Dickey wouldn't get his important unimportant 20th win.
But Dickey settled down after the fourth (when Rod Barajas hit a home run to put the Pirates up 3-1), and even struck out the side in the fifth. The Mets stepped to the plate in the bottom half of the fifth down 3-2, knowing that they had to score some runs to get their ace the "W." Andres Torres walked. Ruben Tejada singled after Dickey struck out. And then Daniel Murphy hit his second single of hte game, to plate Torres. And then David Wright hit a deep homer to put the Mets up 6-3 suddenly.
It was up to Dickey and the pen. He allowed one single and struck out four in the next three innings. He was dealing. He even threw two circle changes -- one to strike out Garret Jones in the eighth -- and racked up 13 strikeouts against two walks in his 7 2/3 innings, but after a walk to Travis Snider, he handed the ball to Jon Rauch.
Oh boy. Rauch got Barajas to fly to center, but in the ninth, he allowed a walk and a two-run homer to Alex Presley. Alex Presley! Not a great birthday present for Rauch. But Bobby Parnell came out and got the final two outs (mostly with breaking pitches, which was strange) to preserve the one-run win, and Dickey got his 20th.
It was a great game, and a great day. Mets fans may have lost an iconic mustache, but they also gained ground in the race for hardware that the Mets haven't seen since Dwight Gooden in 1985. Let's go Dickey. Let's go Mets.
* Amazin' Avenue Gamethread
* Bucs Dugout Gamethread
Big winners: David Wright, +37.1%, Daniel Murphy +17.9%, Bobby Parnell, +8.5%,
Big losers: Josh Thole, -9.7%, Mike Baxter, -6.3%
Teh aw3s0mest play: David Wright three-run homer in the fifth, +27%
Teh sux0rest play: Rod Barajas one-run double in the second, +11.9%
Total pitcher WPA: +6%
Total batter WPA: +44%
GWRBI!: David Wright homer