R.A. Dickey leads the majors in wins and his staggering unbeaten string has made him an All-Star for the first time.
Extending that streak may strengthen his case to be the NL's starter.
The knuckleballer looks to become the first New York Mets pitcher to win 13 games prior to the break in 22 years Thursday night when he faces fellow All-Star Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies .
Dickey (12-1, 2.15 ERA) has harnessed his baffling pitch to improbably become one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2012. Already with a career high in wins, the 37-year-old right-hander ranks among the major league leaders in ERA, strikeouts (116) and opponent batting average (.190).
"The metaphor I would give is that if a traditional knuckleball is a butterfly, mine is more like a butterfly on steroids," Dickey said. "It's more like a mosquito or a hummingbird than a butterfly, because of the velocity. It comes in and breaks late at the plate. It darts more and it's in and out of the strike zone. Phil Niekro once told me I had an 'angry' knuckleball."
That pitch is the major reason he's unbeaten since losing at Atlanta on April 18, going 10-0 with a 1.51 ERA in his last 13 outings. That includes five wins in six June starts behind a 0.93 ERA while fanning 55 in 48 1-3 innings, earning NL pitcher of the month honors.
Dickey seems like a front-runner to get the starting nod in next week's All-Star game.
"I feel like there's a lot of people who are worthy of starting the game," Dickey told the Mets' official website. "Whether I pitch an inning, I start the game or I pitch the whole thing, it doesn't matter personally to me. I would certainly be honored if I was given the ball in the first inning, sure."
Dickey is getting one more start before the Midsummer Classic, and a victory would make him the first Met to get 13 before the break since Frank Viola did it in 1990. The only other Mets to achieve that feat were Tom Seaver (three times) and Dwight Gooden .
Dickey is 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA in four career home starts against the Phillies (37-46), and he beat them on the road April 13 by allowing one run in seven innings of a 5-2 victory.
New York (44-38) could use another strong performance after falling 9-2 to Philadelphia on Wednesday following an 11-1 victory in the series opener.
Hamels (10-4, 3.08), who is going to his third All-Star game, will try to help the Phillies take the three-game set, but he could use some help from an offense that had 12 hits with three homers Wednesday.
The left-hander compiled a 1.93 ERA in his last two starts, but has an 0-1 record in that stretch because he was backed by three total runs. Hamels has won both of his starts against the Mets this year while posting a 3.60 ERA.
He has been the subject of trade rumors since he's in the final year of his contract and the Phillies occupy last place in the NL East.
"I've always been a more honorable guy than anything and I'll always stay that way," Hamels said of the possibility of leaving Philadelphia on the team's official website. "It's never something where you get bitter. I've never been that guy that's ever gotten bitter and used it against somebody."
Batterymate Carlos Ruiz is hitting .412 with four homers and seven RBIs in his last nine games after driving in two runs on two hits Wednesday, including a solo shot.
|June 25, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle - out 3-5 weeks|
|June 07, 2012||Freddy Galvis||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|June 05, 2012||Placido Polanco||Day-to-Day||Left game - left index finger laceration|
|June 02, 2012||Jose Contreras||60-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|May 28, 2012||Roy Halladay||15-Day DL||Right latissimus dorsi strain|
|May 16, 2012||Placido Polanco||Day-to-Day||Left knee contusion|
|New York Mets|
|July 03, 2012||Kirk Nieuwenhuis||Day-to-Day||Bruised right hand|
|June 23, 2012||Frank Francisco||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|June 16, 2012||Jason Bay||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 02, 2012||Mike Baxter||15-Day DL||Displaced right collarbone|
|May 31, 2012||Ramon Ramirez||15-Day DL||Right hamstring strain|
|May 31, 2012||Ramon Ramirez||15-Day DL||Right hamstring strain|
NEW YORK (AP) -- After being pushed around by their National League rivals for the past five seasons, David Wright and the New York Mets are refusing to give in to anyone.
The new attitude is paying off, big time.
Wright singled off Jonathan Papelbon with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the Mets to a 6-5 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night that preserved R.A. Dickey's 11-game winning streak.
Mets catcher Josh Thole prevented a run in the eighth when he held on to the ball despite being barreled over at home plate. Daniel Murphy lined a shot off Papelbon's leg for the tying run with two outs in the ninth, setting the stage for Wright.
"It seems like all year we've had that never-say-die attitude, continuing to play the game no matter what the score is," said Wright, who had four RBIs with two outs.
Cole Hamels outlasted Dickey in a matchup of All-Stars that fizzled from the start. Hounded by recent trade rumors, Hamels pitched seven gritty innings and had two hits. But the Phillies' suspect bullpen couldn't finish off the win after beating the Mets on Wednesday night.
Ike Davis began the ninth with a double off Papelbon (2-3). Thole sacrificed pinch-runner Ronny Cedeno to third before Kirk Nieuwenhuis struck out. Papelbon then hit Jordany Valdespin with a 3-2 pitch and walked Ruben Tejada on a full-count to load the bases for Murphy.
"The way I look at it, this one's on me," Papelbon said. "The team went out and grinded as hard as it could."
Dickey pumped his fist in the dugout and Justin Turner smashed a pie in Wright's face during a postgame interview as fans chanted "MVP!" for the All-Star third baseman.
Wright had nine RBIs in the three game series.
Bobby Parnell (2-1) pitched the ninth for the Mets, winners of six of eight. Up next for New York: the NL Central's last place ballclub, the Chicago Cubs .
"It's feels great to win a game like this, but we have to be prepared to win tomorrow," Wright said. "It would be really nice to win another series before the break."
Wright hit a two-run homer in the fifth that gave the Mets a brief 4-3 lead and had an RBI single in the third.
Papelbon blew just his second save in 20 chances this season.
The Phillies fell to 3-9 in games decided in the last at-bat.
"It might sound like an old cliche, but the game is never over `til it's over, like Yogi (Berra) said," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "You try to stay even keel. You come out the next day and chip away."
Philadelphia tried to add on a run in the eighth when Mike Fontenot attempted to score on pinch-hitter Chase Utley 's single to left. But Thole caught the throw from left fielder Scott Hairston , braced himself and kept the ball in his mitt when he was slammed into by Fontenot.
"Just hang on to the ball," Thole said he was thinking as Fontenot beared down on him.
Dickey matched a career high by allowing 11 hits, and perhaps gave National League manager Tony La Russa reason to end the debate over whether the knuckleballer should start the All-Star game. In his shaky final start before the break, Dickey gave up five runs - but avoided a loss for the second time in three starts. He hasn't lost since April 13 at Atlanta.
"I didn't deserve a no-decision, I deserved to lose tonight," Dickey said. "The guys picked me up."
Juan Pierre pushed a bunt up the first-base line to score Rollins with the tiebreaking run in the sixth inning after Wright put New York ahead in the fifth with a two-out, two-run homer.
Dickey is coming off one of the best months in baseball history. In winning the NL pitcher of the month award for June, he went 5-0 with an 0.93 ERA and had consecutive one-hitters. Dickey became the first starter in the 100 years of tracking ERA to allow five runs in one game and still end a month with an ERA under 1.00, according to stats provided to the Mets by the Elias Sports Bureau.
His July got off to a rocky start.
Jimmy Rollins , who was a homer shy of the cycle, walked leading off and, after two outs, Dickey hit his potential All-Star batterymate Carlos Ruiz with a pitch. Shane Victorino , a switch-hitter batting from the right side against the righty, lined an RBI single to center field for the first run against Dickey in the first inning this year.
The last time these two All-Star pitchers faced each other - in 2010 - Hamels had the Phillies' only hit off Dickey. This time, Hamels popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt in the second inning but beat it out for a single because Dickey was slow to react and his throw to first was late. Rollins then hit an RBI double.
Hairston hit his fifth home run in his 27th at-bat against Hamels, a leadoff shot in the second to pull the Mets to 2-1. Wright's RBI single an inning later tied it.
But the Phillies kept on connecting against Dickey and Hunter Pence had a run-scoring single in the fourth.
Hamels' second hit led to two runs in the sixth. He scored on Rollins' triple. Pierre's bunt gave the Phillies a 5-4 lead.
NOTES: The Mets recalled RHP Pedro Beato before the game and he got one in the eighth. ... Wright has eight game-ending hits in his career. ... Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said 1B Ryan Howard (Achilles) could join the Phillies on Friday. It all depends on how he feels after his rehab game Thursday night.