NEW YORK METS:
It's Time To Start Talking About R.A. Dickey the All*Star.
After seven full innings pitched in Pittsburgh, R.A. Dickey achieved his career high for strikeouts in a game with eleven. R.A. surrendered but five hits, one earned run, and walked none.
In the top of the eighth, Coach Terry was faced with leaving Dickey in the game, as he only had thrown eighty-nine pitches to that point, or pinch hitting for him, because the Mets were tied with the Pirates at one, with the pitcher due to lead off. Buc's starter, James McDonald, was equal to the task with seven innings of one run baseball as well. He allowed four Met hits, walked two, and struck out eight.
The scoring re-cap is easy. Mike Nickeas singled home Daniel Murphy back in the second. And Pittsburgh scored on a sac-fly in the sixth.
Coach Terry sent up Andres Torres to pinch hit, who promptly struck out. So much for strategy. Mike Baxter then lined a double to straight away center field. Kirk Nieuwenhuis did well to work out a walk which brought up David Wright. But the (now) .403 Kid struck out too. So up stepped Lucas Duda looking for a clutch two out hit. And you know..., he came through. He pulled righty Juan Cruz' offering past first base for an RBI single. Baxter scored from second on the hit. James McDonald's line was now complete and would be marked by a no-decision.
The Bucs brought in another righty, Chris Resop, to face lefty Daniel Murphy with two outs and Nieuwenhuis on third. An E-5 put Murphy on first, and allowed Nieuwenhuis to score for a 3-1 Mets lead. Ike Davis, who was 0 for 4 on the night, with two strikeouts, ended the threat.
Then, in came the Mets' bullpen. After suffering the loss in Monday's game, Jon Rauch was first. A one out double by Jose Tabata to right was followed up with a fine play by Nickeas, 2-3 for the out. Tabata moved to third on the play and scored when Daniel Murphy couldn't make an over the shoulder catch on a flair to short right. The game was now 3-2 Mets, with the tying run on first. Out went Rauch. In came Tim Byrdak to face Pedro Alvarez. Andrew McCutchen stole second to put the tying run at second. Then on a 1-2 pitch, Tim Byrdak struck out his man and preserved the Mets lead. The book on R.A. Dickey wasn't closed yet.
Frank Francisco began to muster in the bullpen while the Mets took their at-bat in the top of the ninth. Once they failed to tack on any insurance runs, the big righty entered the game in search of his eleventh save, or his fourth loss, or his third blown save. We never know these days.
A grounder to Murphy, and a strikeout, left Pittsburgh down to their last at-bat. Rod Barajas popped up that opportunity a mile high and Kirk Nieuwenhuis squeezed it for the last out. And so Frank Francisco's eleventh save indeed, came without incident. R.A. Dickey is now a six game winner versus just one loss.
Scott Hairston is still the only Met to hit a home run on this road trip. Pittsburgh barely has more than New York. After tomorrow's rubber game, the Mets will host the San Diego Padres - the only team with less home runs than the Roosevelt Avenue Scrappers.
In lieu of power, the Mets have five, two-out RBI, against Pittsburgh so far. And unlike their paltry .179 batting with RiSP against Toronto, the Mets are now 4 for 13 (.308) with RiSP this series.
Even with no power to speak of, everything the Metrs aren't getting accomplished against a string a good starting pitchers this month, they've done well to take out on relief pitchers. The Mets continue to outlast many quality starts, and score late against team's bullpens. James McDonald's was just the latest good start and Pittsburgh's bullpen was just the latest to implode against the Mets.
Such style of Baseball is tough on starting pitcher's baseball card. But unlike last season, when a preponderance of R.A. Dickey's quality starts were relegated to no-decisions, or toe-tagged with a blown loss, this season, the Mets are doing a better job getting R.A. wins.
His continues to be a remarkable story. Signed out of the ether by Omar Minaya to a minor league contract over the winter of 2009-10, he's become the Mets' most reliable, and consistent starting pitcher. While improving his staff leading record to 6-1, he also lowered his ERA to a 3.45 in nine starts. He leads the Mets rotation with 57.1 innings pitched, by far offering the Mets bullpen the most respite.
I think it's time we starting talking about R.A. Dickey in the same sentence with All-Star Game.
The Mets came back to split two games and will play the rubber match against the Pirates tomorrow in an early afternoon matinee, before returning home. After dropping two of three to Toronto, they can end this road trip (2-3), and bring their overall road record (11-12) this season to .500 with a win Wednesday.