The Mets turned to R.A. Dickey to put them back on the winning side of things, and that’s exactly what he did last night. He was opposing James McDonald, who has broken onto the scene so far this season, but the knuckleballer put together his 20th quality start in 21 tries, showing that he’s one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball.
Offense was hard to come by in this game, with both starters going into the seventh inning and only allowing one run to cross. The Mets
took the early lead in the second inning when Daniel Murphy and Ronny Cedeno walked, allowing Mike Nickeas to single home Murphy with two outs. Dickey didn’t allow a run until the sixth inning; Josh Harrison tripled with one out, which was misplayed by Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Andrew McCutchen made them pay by driving in the tying run with a sacrifice fly.
Dickey had command of his knuckleball like no other last night. In his seven innings, he gave up five hits, that one run, didn’t walk a soul, and struck out a career-high 11 hitters. It only took him 88 pitches to navigate through his outing, but Terry Collins curiously lifted him for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, in an effort to get some much needed runs on the board. Even though Andres Torres struck out, Mike Baxter doubled and Kirk Nieuwenhuis walked, setting the stage for Lucas Duda. He singled to right, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Then, the Mets and Daniel Murphy took advantage of a Pedro Alvarez fielding error to push a third run on the board, which they would need.
Jon Rauch came in to be the bridge the Frank Francisco in the eighth, but he struggled. He gave up a double to Jose Tabata, and with two outs, McCutchen struck again, singling on a pop up that was just out of Murphy’s reach, driving in second run of the night and cutting the lead to only one. Collins called on Tim Brydak to retire Pedro Alvarez for the second night in a row, which he did by way of the strikeout to get out of the inning.
After the Mets went down in order in the top of the ninth inning, it was time for Francisco to come in and try to save the game for the Amazins. Shockingly, he set retired the side in order himself, securing his 11th save of the season and the 23rd win of the year for New York. The win now moves the Mets to 23-20, sitting in 4th place as they’re 3 games behind the now first-place Nationals, who have won three straight games.
It was a shame that Dickey wasn’t able to continue pitching, because with the command he had of his knuckleball, he would have gone the distance, but he understood Collins’ decision to lift him for a pinch hitter to try and get him some more run support. This game was dominated by pitching, with the Mets and Pirates combining for only 13 hits and 23 strikeouts. The lone man to register multiple hits for New York was Ronny Cedeno, who continues to punish his former team. David Wright had a rare off-game, going 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts. Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis both collected a hit and scored a run at the top of the order, and Ike Davis went 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts, lowering his season average to .156.
Probable Pitchers today:
The Mets are going to try to get the series win in today’s rubber match before they head back home to Citi Field for a Memorial Day weekend homestand. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35pm at PNC Park with both starters trying to get back on track. Jonathon Niese (2-2, 4.85 ERA) is coming off his 8-run 4-homer performance against the Blue Jays and Charlie Morton (2-4, 4.35 ERA) gave up 4 runs in 6 innings in his last start against the Tigers.