It's been 22 years since the New York Mets had an 18-game winner, and it's been even longer since they had a Cy Young Award winner.
R.A. Dickey can end one of those droughts Wednesday.
The knuckleballer looks to continue making his Cy Young case while trying to maintain baseball's lead in wins with another dazzling outing against the St. Louis Cardinals.
New York (64-72) will likely fail to reach the playoffs for a sixth straight year, but Dickey (17-4, 2.63 ERA) can't be blamed.
Gooden's 1985 Cy Young is the most recent for the franchise, and Dickey has taken aim at ending that drought.
"Sure I hope for it. What pitcher, what little kid doesn't grow up wanting to be a Cy Young winner? Obviously, the hope is inside me," Dickey said.
Dickey has certainly pitched like a Cy Young winner over his last three starts, going 2-0 while yielding two runs and 13 hits in 23 innings. He was spectacular again Friday, throwing his NL-leading fifth complete game with a five-hitter in a 3-0 victory at Miami.
"I'm running out of things to say about him," manager Terry Collins said.
Dickey is 2-0 with a 1.52 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals since 2010, including a seven-hitter while fanning nine in a 5-0 home victory June 2.
He may need a similar performance in order to help New York avoid being swept in this three-game set after falling 5-1 Wednesday.
The Cardinals (74-62), who hold the NL's second wild-card spot, are eying a sweep by giving the ball to Adam Wainwright (13-11, 3.90). The right-hander is also looking to rebound from one of the worst starts of his career.
Wainwright was tagged for six runs and nine hits with three walks in 2 2-3 innings of Friday's 10-0 loss at Washington. It matched the shortest start of his career from May 15, 2007, and followed an outstanding stretch of seven starts in which he went 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
"Just a really weird night," Wainwright said. "Nothing that's going to do anything but motivate me for next time. Definitely a loss you can pin on my shoulders."
Perhaps being back home will help. He's won six starts in a row in St. Louis behind a 1.42 ERA while accumulating 45 strikeouts in 44 1-3 innings.
Wainwright's only start against the Mets at Busch Stadium was a complete game, 5-3 win on April 18, 2010. He's posted a 10.32 ERA in losing two meetings with them since, including an 8-0 defeat June 1 while allowing seven runs in 6 1-3 innings.
Matt Holliday 's status is unclear after he exited Tuesday's victory with lower back tightness. He's among the league leaders with 92 RBIs and is batting .305, but is in a 6-for-29 (.207) slump.
Carlos Beltran is in a 5-for-39 funk, but it's unclear if he'll get a chance to break out of that Wednesday. Beltran missed a second straight game Tuesday to rest his sore left knee, though manager Mike Matheny said he could return for the finale.
Beltran is 2 for 18 versus his former team this year.
|New York Mets|
|August 18, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 15, 2012||Rob Johnson||60-Day DL||Torn ligament, left thumb|
|August 02, 2012||Tim Byrdak||60-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
|July 31, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Strained right thumb|
|July 31, 2012||Jason Bay||Day-to-Day||Bruised left calf|
|July 21, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 31, 2012||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|August 30, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow strain|
|August 28, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained upper back|
|August 25, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
|August 25, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left wrist contusion|
|August 21, 2012||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right hand injury|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- R.A. Dickey had more than enough to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals and become the first pitcher in the majors to reach 18 wins this season.
He didn't have his best stuff, but still managed to strengthen his case in the NL Cy Young Award race.
Dickey was backed by Ike Davis ' three-run homer that powered the New York Mets to a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday.
The knuckleballer allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings en route to his 18th win, the first Mets pitcher to reach the mark since Frank Viola (20-12) and Dwight Gooden (19-7) both did it in 1990. Dickey (18-4) gave up eight hits and struck out five to help New York salvage a win to close out the three-game series.
"It was a battle for me," Dickey said. "I didn't really have a great feel for (the knuckleball) early on. I threw a couple of more fastballs than I ordinarily would have.
"I'm pleased with the results, but obviously I have a little bit of work to do."
Dickey should have five more starts as he tries to become a 20-game winner, which would further bolster his Cy Young resume. Considering where Dickey was just a few years ago - in the minors trying to refine his knuckleball - Mets manager Terry Collins said it has been an incredible journey.
"The whole story of what he's had to go through to get where he is today is truly one of the great stories of sports," Collins said. "I'm thrilled. I hope he wins it (the Cy Young ). But if he doesn't, he's certainly had a storybook season."
For now, Dickey says he is focusing simply on getting win No. 19, but he can't help think about reaching 20, too.
"Obviously, I hope for that," Dickey said. "I hope to win beyond 20. As far as getting to that plateau, it would be really satisfying, I think."
Davis gave the Mets a 5-1 lead with his 26th homer, and Daniel Murphy went 3-for-4 to lift his average in day games to an NL-best .351 (65 for 185). Josh Thole and Andres Torres had RBI singles, and Lucas Duda drove in the Mets' other run with a bases-loaded walk.
The Mets did most of their damage off of Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (13-12), who allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings.
"I'd say he wasn't as sharp as he would like to be," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "His game revolves around establishing his fastball, and he just didn't have that tight fastball command today."
However, Wainwright delivered the Cardinals' first run when he led off the third inning with a home run against Dickey. It was Wainwright's first homer of the season and the sixth in his major league career.
Former first-round pick Shelby Miller was much more effective for the Cardinals. Making his Major League debut, Miller struck out four in two innings of scoreless relief, including fanning the side in the seventh.
After Wainwright's homer cut the Mets' advantage to 2-1, New York stretched its lead in the fifth on Davis' shot.
"The average isn't going to be there," said Davis, who is hitting just .224 this season. "I'm just trying to help the team, and when I hit a home run, that helps the team."
Mike Baxter led off the fifth with a single and went to third one out later on Murphy's single. They scored on Davis' drive over the right field fence.
NOTES: Kyle Lohse (14-2) will seek to match Ted Wilkes, who started 15-2 in 1944, for the best start to a season for a Cardinals pitcher when he faces the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. ... Dickey's ERA of 2.64 is second in the NL to Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto (2.58). ... The crowd of 30,090 was the smallest of the season in St. Louis. ... The game ended on a 9-4-6 double play when Adron Chambers was called out for failing to retouch second base as he retreated to first on Yadier Molina 's fly ball to right.