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Mets vs. Blue Jays Recap: Dickey shines, tops Mets

R.A. Dickey carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and had no problem spanking his old mates, as Toronto beat New York 7-1.

Dickey deserved only the finest of belly rubs after this one.  Jose obliges, with requisite bowed head.  RAmen.
Dickey deserved only the finest of belly rubs after this one. Jose obliges, with requisite bowed head. RAmen.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Since moving to Toronto, R.A. Dickey has not achieved anything near the cult of personality and unquestioned awesomeness we were subject to during his magical years in Queens.  You could argue that no outsider could ever really understand the true meaning of Dickey (do they even know that Dickey Face exists?), but facts are facts.  His knuckler rarely touches 80 mph anymore, his FIP stood at a ghastly 5.30 entering Thursday (with xFIP still an unsightly 4.66),  while his strikeout-to-walk ratio has wilted to 1.76 from the lusty 4.26 he posted back in 2012 (a.k.a. the Summer of Dickey).  Toronto fans are a good-natured lot, but their patience has been worn thin by his erratic performance, especially since he cost them two highly prized prospects in Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.

Such "Dickey fatigue" among Jays fans is understandable when the guy with the Cy Young credentials is tied for the league lead in earned runs allowed.  But tonight, against his old baseball squadron, the NY Mets, Dickey rose to the occasion.  While he wasn't quite as sovereign as we devout would regularly bear witness to during those halcyon days of yore, he did settle into a nice groove after early difficulty.

Dickey walked five batters in the first three innings, including walking the bases loaded in the second.  The knuckleballer was clearly flummoxed by umpire Mark Wegner's strike zone, regularly shaking his head in disbelief between pitches and even approaching Wegner to fustigate him verbally after retiring the Mets without incident.  Dickey didn't get burned by his wildness or boldness, instead holding down the submissive Mets offense for six scoreless innings.  By the time Lucas Duda jumped on his 120th pitch for a solo home run, Dickey was ready to take a shower with a 7-1 lead.

Despite the lopsided score, the best pitching performance of the night was arguably by a Met.  In fact, the newest one.  Logan Verrett, who had been whisked away from the team in the Rule 5 draft but now returned after stints in Baltimore and Texas, was very, very impressive in his National League debut.  He kept Toronto's offensive juggernaut off-balance and flailing by deftly changing speeds and location with a mix of a sharp slider, diving change-up, fall-off-the table sinker, and a four-seam fastball that topped out at 94 mph.

Check out the way he varied velocity with each pitch, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

He was in total control, striking out four in two innings of perfect relief over the seventh and eighth innings.  He even seemed to be cracking a wry smile before some two-strike pitches.  Maybe this is why:

Wow.  Look at all those swings and misses outside the zone, sometimes WAY outside the zone.  None of his pitches that actually landed in the zone were put in play.  It's only one outing, but for a team starved for reliable bullpen help at present, it was enticing.

Meanwhile, the pitching duel that some were expecting between Dickey and fellow forty-something Bartolo Colon may well have materialized if not for two plays where young defenders dropped their fundamentals and focus.  Dilson Herrera was a bit too nonchalant while flubbing a backhand play to open the second inning, allowing a runner to reach that would later score.  In the fourth, with two on and one out, Kevin Pillar smacked a liner at Wilmer Flores, who leaped despite the fact that the ball would end up around his head.  Flores was already looking at second to try and double off the runner before he had secured the catch; instead the ball deflected off his glove and into left field, loading the bases.  He was not charged with an error, but probably should have been.  The Mets were then unable to turn a possible inning-ending double play when Pillar dropped a wicked takeout slide on Flores, and the floodgates opened from there.  Five runs came across in the remainder of the frame, and New York was buried before the game was half over.

Perhaps the Mets' young middle infielders were a victim to their own recent success.  Herrera has been getting praise of late as a defensive upgrade at second base, particularly for his spectacular game-saving dive and glove-flip in Sunday's comeback win.  Flores has now gone 17 games without being charged an error, with only one error in the last 30 games.  But when the defense falters, other teams seem to find a way for the Mets to pay more often than not.

The offense offered even less support; in case you doubt this, consider that the highest WPA came on a second inning lead-off walk.  The Mets mustered only two hits the whole night besides Duda's homer.  Heck, Jose Reyes had two hits by himself tonight, after looking very much like he was pressing against his old team in starting out 1-for-16 in the series.  Unlike two-time teammate Dickey, Reyes is a fan favorite in Toronto for all of the familiar reasons—despite numerous injuries, concerning defensive range and ongoing problems with throwing accuracy.

This series against Toronto had to be a bittersweet one for Mets fans.  They got to reunite with two of the most popular players in franchise history...dressed as opponents.  They split four games against an extremely hot team, but once again laid bare their own Jekyll-and-Hyde nature.  They did, however, flash a potential that the rest of baseball can't help but notice.

SB Nation GameThreads

* Amazin' Avenue GameThread
* Bluebird Banter GameThread

Win Probability Added

(What's this?)

Big winner: R.A. Dickey, +24.3% WPA
Big losers: Bartolo Colon, -25.6% WPA; Curtis Granderson -10.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Travis d'Arnaud's walk to lead off the second, +3.8%
Teh sux0rest play: Kevin Pillar's RBI single in the second, +11% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -25.3%
Total batter WPA: -24.7%
GWRBI!: Ryan Goins