R.A. Dickey was not supposed to contribute much to the 2010 Mets. After all, how much can a team expect from a guy who only had 22 major league wins and 5.43 career ERA over his first seven major league seasons? Surely, the Mets were only expecting to have him as a backup who would occasionally get a spot start if needed.
Then Oliver Perez and John Maine went down with injuries, proving that occasionally Mets fans' prayers are answered. Up came R.A. Dickey, who was only supposed to fill in as a starter until half of the original lineup of Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts returned from their injuries.
Fourteen starts later, Dickey is not only still in the rotation, he is a key cog in the Mets' quest to have meaningful games in September.
Today, Dickey floated his knuckleball past the Cardinals for 8.1 innings, allowing only four hits and two walks. The 4-0 victory was the major league leading 14th shutout by the Mets, and was the fifth time Dickey held his opponent scoreless while he was on the mound. For his efforts, Dickey earned his first victory since June 23.
Prior to today's outing, through no fault of his own, Dickey had failed to win a start in the month of July. The Mets had lost all five of his starts despite fantastic performances in all five outings (1.89 ERA, .230 batting average against, .271 OBP).
Today looked like a day Dickey was going to have to carry the team on his own. The Mets had just suffered an 8-7, 13-inning defeat last night in a game that took over four and a half hours to complete. The offense, which had inexcusably been missing for most of the month of July now had an excuse to be absent after playing for so long last night. In addition to the tired offense, David Wright had been given the day off after appearing to break out of his mini-slump by collecting three hits last night. Had the Mets been shut out today, would anyone have been surprised?
Then Ike Davis (who had been given the night off on Wednesday so that Mike Hessman could get his first start for the Mets at first base) gave Dickey all the runs he needed by breaking the scoreless tie with a three-run homer in the third inning of today's game. Once Dickey had the lead, he carved through the Cardinals' lineup, facing one batter above the minimum until the ninth inning, when he got into a bit of trouble and had to be relieved by Frankie Rodriguez.
Today's game marked the 12th time in 14 starts that Dickey has given up three earned runs or less. By comparison, since signing his three-year, $36 million deal prior to the 2009 season, Oliver Perez has also given up three earned runs or less in exactly 12 starts. It took R.A. Dickey a little over two months to do what Oliver Perez has done in one and a half years (and has been paid handsomely to do so).
Speaking of the impeached El Perez-idente, Ollie has not pitched more than 6.1 innings in any of his 21 starts since signing the aforementioned three-year contract. What about Robert Alan Dickey? He has pitched at least six innings in 12 of his 14 starts. However, one of the two starts where he did not make it through the sixth inning was last Sunday, when Jerry Manuel pulled the non-injured Dickey from the game because of apparent injury. The removal angered Dickey, who had only thrown 70 pitches and was pitching a two-hit shutout against the Dodgers at the time.
A well-rested Dickey put aside his differences with Dead Manuel Walking to handcuff the non-rested Cardinals today. In doing so, Dickey lowered his ERA to 2.32, which would be good enough for fourth in the National League if he had enough innings pitched.
(Special note: Dickey falls just short of qualifying for the ERA title, as he has pitched 92 innings over the Mets' first 102 games. A pitcher must pitch one inning for every game his team has played to be considered among the league leaders. I hope you're taking notes, as this will be on the quiz.)
R.A. Dickey has been better than expected since being promoted to the major leagues. The 35-year-old journeyman pitcher has gone from fill-in to dependable starter over the course of the past two months.
With John Maine's Met career almost certain to be over and Oliver Perez banned from taking the mound within two hours of the Star Spangled Banner, it appears as if R.A. Dickey and his tantalizing knuckleball might be a part of the Mets' rotation beyond this season. How Dickey-licious is that?