R.A. Dickey's chances of an NL Cy Young Award may have taken a hit with back-to-back losses, though it's mostly no fault of his own.
Tied for second in the NL in wins and strikeouts (205) while leading it in ERA, Dickey (18-6, 2.67 ERA) has been the highlight in an otherwise disappointing season for the Mets (67-83).
However, while he's one of the leading candidates for the Cy Young , the knuckleballer has dropped his last two starts.
Dickey pitched well in both but received a total of three runs of support. Against Philadelphia on Monday, he allowed three runs - two earned - and five hits while striking out eight over seven innings of a 3-1 loss.
Dickey is 5-5 with a 2.40 ERA and two complete games over his last 11 starts. He has a 3.2 run-support average over that stretch.
"We'll go back at the end of the year and recount the number of games where he didn't get a decision, or he's allowed us an opportunity to win, and hopefully it doesn't get back to bite him too bad," manager Terry Collins said.
Dickey hasn't needed much help versus the Marlins. He is 7-0 with a 0.71 ERA in his last seven starts against them, including four wins this season. Dickey has gone the distance in the last two, pitching a five-hit shutout Aug. 31.
Still, he's likely hoping New York's bats can keep things going after a 7-3 win Friday snapped the Mets' 16-game streak of scoring three or fewer runs at home and their five-game skid overall.
Coming off a 16-1 loss to Philadelphia at Citi Field on Thursday which led Collins to hint that players had quit, New York responded quickly. Scott Hairston hit a two-run homer in the first inning and the team led 5-0 after two.
The win moved the Mets 1 1/2 games in front of the Marlins (66-85) for last place in the NL East.
"It felt like a playoff game win," Collins said somewhat sarcastically.
While New York responded to Collins' criticism, for which he apologized, Miami's woes continued as it fell 19 games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.
Before the loss, first-year manager Ozzie Guillen said he wasn't concerned about rumors he could be fired.
"That's the last thing going through my mind every day, if I'm going to have a job next year," Guillen said. "I'm going to have a job. I don't know if it's managing the Marlins, but I will have a job."
Mark Buehrle (13-12, 3.78) will take the mound for the Marlins, who have lost four of five. He won for the fourth time in five decisions last Saturday, giving up four runs and striking out seven over 7 2-3 innings to beat Cincinnati 6-4.
The left-hander is 0-2 with a 3.92 ERA in three starts against the Mets this year, with Miami giving him five runs of support. He allowed two runs over seven innings in his only career start at Citi Field, a 5-1 loss April 25.
|September 21, 2012||Justin Ruggiano||Day-to-Day||Sprained right shoulder|
|September 18, 2012||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|September 14, 2012||Carlos Lee||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained neck|
|September 04, 2012||Heath Bell||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 22, 2012||Emilio Bonifacio||60-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|August 13, 2012||Nick Green||15-Day DL||Sprained left thumb|
|New York Mets|
|September 12, 2012||Ronny Cedeno||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight right hamstring|
|September 07, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Left knee bruise|
|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|
NEW YORK (AP) -- For eight innings, the only real drama that filled pumped-up Citi Field was whether R.A. Dickey would get a shutout to go along with his 19th win.
When the New York Mets ' star knuckleballer went back to the mound for the ninth, a shutout seemed like a foregone conclusion, but moments later all Dickey could do was watch from the bench and hope that struggling reliever Jon Rauch could shut down the Miami Marlins with the tying run on second base.
Rauch came through by the slimmest of margins, and Dickey and the Mets breathed a sigh of relief when they escaped with a 4-3 victory on Saturday.
Dickey allowed a four-pitch walk and a double to open the ninth, and Rauch surrendered a three-run homer to John Buck before striking out Gorkys Hernandez to end it.
"We ultimately got the win but it was definitely a little harder than we wanted it to be," said Jason Bay , who staked Dickey to a 2-0 lead with a second-inning homer.
Just hours after the Mets snapped a nine-game losing streak at Citi Field on Friday and scored more than three runs in their home ballpark for the first time since Aug. 12, New York broke out the bats again in front of a crowd of 30,332.
The Marlins rallied but couldn't finish off the comeback after Buck was awarded a home run when a video review determined his drive struck the left-field foul pole.
"I knew it hit the pole and I was just waiting for the reversal," Bay said. "It was kind of like, `this can't be happening."'
The Mets have won consecutive games at home for the first time since topping Houston on Aug. 25-26 - the last two games before the start of their most recent home skid.
Dickey got to 19 wins on his third try after two consecutive losses - the only time this season he has been beaten in back-to-back starts.
Washington's Gio Gonzalez , who earned his 20th win on Saturday, and Dickey are the only major leaguers with at least 19.
The knuckleballer batted for himself in the eighth, despite already throwing 104 pitches, and heard cheers and chants of his name when he returned to the mound in the ninth.
He tried to finish his fourth shutout of the season but was pulled after Greg Dobbs led off with a walk and Donovan Solano followed with a double.
"Nobody wants this guy to win more than me," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I could not let him get into a situation where he might lose that game."
Rauch then allowed Buck's 12th homer before getting three outs for his fourth save.
"I had a quick eighth, so I was game to try to give the fans a treat and a complete game," Dickey said. "I felt pretty good and I told Terry, `I'm good.' He has trusted me all year. I went back out there and tried it, and he pulled me when he needed to and we won the game."
Dickey yielded two runs, six hits - including three by Solano and two by Gil Velazquez - and two walks.
Dickey nearly provided another thrill with his bat when he sent a long drive to left field with the bases loaded in the sixth, but was robbed of an extra-base hit when Bryan Petersen jumped into the fence to make a highlight-reel catch.
"That is as close as I'll probably ever get," Dickey said. "That was all this old man can do. I cheated on the pitch. He threw me a good pitch to hit. Everything was perfect."
After a wild pitch on a knuckler, Dickey worked out of a jam in the second inning by striking out Hernandez and Jose Reyes with runners on second and third.
"He struck out the guy when he needed to strike out the guy," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "That was a huge, huge inning for him."
Five of Dickey's wins this season have come against the last-place Marlins, the only team in the NL East behind the Mets. He should get one more start against them in the final series of the season in Miami.
"He obviously is good. It's not like he's just had our number," Buck said. "We didn't single-handedly hand him the Cy Young . He did have to face some other teams. We're obviously a big part of the reason."
Dickey struck out four to retake the league lead from Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw and will be in position to reach 20 wins for the first time when he faces Pittsburgh on Thursday in his final home start of the season.
Bay provided the punch against Mark Buehrle (13-13) in the second by launching a two-run homer to straightaway center for his eighth of the season. It was Bay's second consecutive shot against Buehrle, having hit a grand slam against the left-hander in Miami on Sept. 2 to pace the Mets to a 5-1 win.
Scott Hairston pushed New York's lead to 3-0 in the fourth when he led off with his 19th homer of the season and second in two days. Hairston had to wait through a video review before he finished his trot in from second base, as the ball was originally ruled in play off the center field fence.
Replays showed the ball struck the batter's eye above the blue wall 408 feet from home plate.
Buehrle allowed four runs and five hits with three walks and three strikeouts in six innings of his 30th start of the season. He is six innings shy of reaching 200, which would give him 12 straight seasons of 10 wins, 30 starts and 200 innings - the longest current streak in the majors.
NOTES: Mets closer Frank Francisco was again unavailable after feeling soreness in his elbow. ... Dickey is the first Mets pitcher with 19 wins since Frank Viola (20) and Dwight Gooden (19) did it in 1990. ... Lucas Duda returned to the Mets lineup one day after being pulled from the game by Collins for not running out a pop fly that dropped. ... Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton sat out a fourth consecutive game because of a strained muscle in his side. ... Buehrle is 0-3 against the Mets in his career, all this season.