The remarkable story of R.A. Dickey has been well-documented over the past few years. It reached its zenith in the 2012 season. That's because the late-blooming knuckleballer, after years of bouncing around from team to team, finally found his groove at the ripe age of 37.
Following up a 2011 campaign in which he had a 3.28 earned run average but a record of 8-13, Dickey was downright unbeatable in the first half of 2012. Over the course of two games in May, he allowed just one run in 14⅓ innings and had double-digit strikeouts in both contests.
Remarkably, June proved to be even better. Dickey went 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA and was named the National League Pitcher of the Month. It seemed he had perfect stuff almost every time he took the mound. That was certainly the case on June 13, when he came as close as you get to a no-hitter.
Against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, controversy brewed in the bottom of the first. A weak ground ball by B.J. Upton was not fielded cleanly by David Wright, and the official scorer called it a single rather than pinning the error on the sure-handed third baseman.
Placed in an awkward position, manager Terry Collins futilely appealed the play after the game, arguing that the hit should be changed to an error on his star player after the fact. The hit did little to rattle Dickey, who got out the first inning with nary a threat by the Rays. His momentum built through the fourth, with eight strikeouts and no additional baserunners up to that point.
After being shut out themselves through four innings, New York's pedestrian lineup—only two starters had batting averages over .300—mounted a modest offensive attack against standout lefty David Price in the top half of the fifth. Mike Nickeas got the scoring started with an RBI single to center field, which Daniel Murphy followed with a two-run base hit of his own.
Price was removed after the fifth, meanwhile Dickey was pitching like he didn't want anyone to take his spot. He retired Tampa in order in each of the next four frames. In total, 22 straight Rays were set down following the early single.
The Mets had increased their lead to 9-0 as the game reached the last of the ninth. With little pressure on Dickey, he had the opportunity to notch a complete game. The first batter of the final inning, Elliot Johnson, reached base on a miscue by Wright—this time scored an error. After a fly out, two passed balls fooled Nickeas as he had trouble handling the knuckler, after which Johnson stood on third base. A weak ground ball to shortstop went for an RBI ground out that plated Johnson with an unearned run, ending the shutout hopes. In addition, Dickey's consecutive scoreless innings streak came to an halt at 44⅓, topping the previous Mets record held by Jerry Koosman.
With just one out to go, Dickey got Carlos Pena to pop out to Nickeas. With one hit, no walks, and 12 strikeouts, Dickey was the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 wins after the best-pitched game of his career.
More honors would come Dickey's way in 2012. In July, he was named to his first All-Star team. On September 27, he won his 20th—and final—game of the year. When the baseball writers' votes were tallied, Dickey became the third pitcher in franchise history to win the National League Cy Young Award. Later that offseason, Dickey was traded to the Blue Jays for a package including young catcher Travis d'Arnaud, pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, and veteran catcher John Buck.
His stay in Queens was brief and his time with stardom was even shorter, but R.A. Dickey provided the Mets and their fans many great moments during his dream 2012 season, including a brush with perfection in Tampa Bay.