Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey Striving to Become Division’s Top Starting Duo

In his eleventh start of the season, R.A. Dickey won his sixth straight decision, this time over the Cardinals.  His record is now 8-1 for the season, which ties him for most wins in the National League, along with having the highest winning percentage in the league as well.

His ERA dropped from 3.06 after his effort against San Diego, to 2.89 after this last start.  In 73.1 innings pitched, he has surrendered only sixty-one hits and issued seventeen walks.  He now has seventy strikeouts for the season.  And R.A. Dickey is giving every indication he’s only getting stronger.  In his last three starts, he has tossed 23.1 innings, has only given up fifteen hits, surrendered all of one run, struck out thirty batters, and only walked one.

May 27, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey throws a pitch during the game against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

Dickey’s shut-out performance over the Cardinals came on the heels of Johan Santana’s no-hitter.  After starting the season 0-2, Johan has won his last three decisions in a row; of course with some no-decisions interspersed along the way.  But after a complete game shut-out over San Diego in his previous start, then in tossing a no-hitter this Friday, the man with a reconstructed pitching shoulder now leads the National League in both complete games and shut-outs, with two.

His 2.38 ERA ranks sixth in the circuit, and he is eighth in the League in strikeouts with sixty-eight, just behind his team mate at #6, R.A. Dickey.  In sixty-eight innings pitched this season, he has limited opposing batters to forty-nine hits, and walked twenty-one.

Behind these two starting pitchers, the Mets won their twenty-ninth, and thirtieth games of the season against the Cardinals, and were the sixth National League team to do so.  The two starting pitchers are undeniably the Mets’ principal weapons this season.  And with them at the front of the rotation, the Mets continue to win in a division with all five teams still playing over the .500 mark.

Faced with what many interpreted as a daunting schedule ahead of them, starting with this Cardinals series, and even by Thursday night on the eve of Johan’s gem, many already started unlacing the proverbial shoe from the Mets’ other foot, and their season.  Somewhere between not being sold on the Mets, and being overly optimistic about the team’s play, lie those who said they Mets would be lucky to still be playing .500 baseball on June 25th.  But of course, that date is still a ways a way.  However, R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana have provided the first two responses to that line of thinking.

After the Mets wrap up this four game series with the Central Division’s second place Cardinals, they will head to the Nation’s Capital and take on the N.L. East leading Washington Nationals.  With Dillon Gee scheduled wrap-up against the Cardinals on Monday, it is looking like Chris Young will finally make his way back from the DL, and make the start against the Nats Tuesday.  Dickey may perhaps pitch again on Thursday.  Johan Santana will be getting pushed back a day, and therefore will not be seeing action against the Nationals.  Terry Collins said after Sunday night’s game – “We’ll see..” with regards to Wednesday’s starter.  The Nat’s Stephen Strasburg, also will not pitch, as he threw Saturday and won.  Gio Gonzalez will miss the series as well, as he pitched Sunday, and lost to Atlanta.

Washington’s staff is solid, and is five deep in quality.  But clearly, their one-two punch is comprised of Strasburg and Gonzalez.  So with them out of the upcoming series, the Mets have an excellent opportunity again, (as they had, and didn’t cash-in on versus Philly), to cause a shake-up in the division standings.  As with the Phillies, I once again call on the Mets to seize the moment against Washington; – because for the purposes of June 5th through the 7th, a series win against Washington is a realistic goal to achieve.

After this last weekend, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are now a combined 13-3 this season, with a shared 2.33 ERA.  They’ve only walked 45 batters, and struck out 163, in 131 innings pitched, with a combined 1.04 WHIP.

With two more games played than Washington, the Miami Marlins are tied for first place.  Like the Nationals, Miami’s starting rotation is deep with five quality arms.  Chose two of the following three pitchers as representative of Miami’s one-two punch.  Or take all three.  Anibal Sanchez and Carlos Zambrano share a combined 2.69 ERA.  Mark Buehrle has a 3.53 ERA.  Together, Sanchez and Zambrano are 7-6, while Buehrle has a 5-5 record.  The three together have combined for 159 strikeouts, and a collective 1.23 WHIP.  Josh Johnson?  He’s too busy battling himself right now.

Before Sunday’s final, the Mets were a half game out of first place with Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey serving as the team’s, very formidable, one-two punch, with Jon Niese pitching Sunday night’s game, as the third in.  Johan and Dickey are a combined 11-3, with a shared 2.64 ERA, 139 strikeouts in 141 innings pitched, and a 1.045 combined WHIP.

Here’s a quick look at the other one-two punches in the division.  Behind the Mets are the Atlanta Braves; two full games behind the Nats.  They have Tim Hudson, but currently only sport one pitcher with an ERA below the 3.00 level.  For argument’s sake, we’ll focus on Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson, and Hudson.  Beachy and Hanson are a combined 11-8, with a shared 2.79 ERA.  Tim Hudson’s 3-2 record, and 4.60 ERA aside, Beachy and Hanson have teamed up to walk 49 batters, and strikeout 120, in 114 combined innings pitched.

That leaves Philadelphia.  And of course we are all familiar with their top three starters.  But for the moment, Roy Halladay is sidelined, leaving Cole Hamels’ impressive season, and Cliff Lee serving as the sidekick for a change.  In spite of his recent injury, it is worth mentioning Roy Halladay has not been his usual dominating self this season.  In fact, the year has been a struggle for the multiple Cy Young Award winner.

Cole Hamels however, is tied with R.A. Dickey for the National League lead in wins with eight.  But Dickey has one less loss than does Hamels.  Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are a combined 8-4 this season.  That’s right, in eight starts, Cliff Lee is win-less.  Between them, Hamels and Lee have a 2.91 ERA, and have combined on 134 strikeouts together.  It’s also worth mentioning, like Dickey and Johan Santana,  Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton, have also thrown two of the few complete games pitched in the National League this season.

That’s what we know about our competition’s two best starting pitching options on June 4th.  And here’s what Mets fans can safely surmise about their own duo – New York’s One-Two punch is pitching as formidably as any duo in the division, and in three of four cases, even better than their competition.

Give Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg all due credit and praise for their seasons so far.  But don’t look now Washington, here comes Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey.

And then, there is the case of the rubber man; lefty Jon Niese.  In Sunday night’s Game Three against the Cardinals, he lasted six innings before reportedly experiencing mild dizziness and exiting the game with a six run lead.  Within his six innings of work, he surrendered six hits.  But like Johan Santana, and R.A. Dickey before him, he kept Carlos Beltran, and the offensively proficient Cardinals scoreless…, again.  Niese walked only one, and struck out a career high ten St. Louis batters using all his pitches, to include featuring a lively curve ball in gaining his fourth win of the season.The Mets bullpen couldn’t preserve the Game Three shutout.  But we are talking about a relatively minor hiccup.  Otherwise they could have combined on their seventh team white-washing of the season.  Their six combined shut-outs still out-pace the rest of the League.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, Andres Torres, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright, all ensured the Mets scored enough runs to secure a series win against the Cardinals this weekend, with a game and a chance to sweep still to go.  And in three games to begin the so called “stretch from hell”, the Mets starting pitching, their one-two punch, answered the opening bell with major body blows to the mid-sections of their nay-sayers, and in the process, gained a share of first place.

The old one-two will get ya every time.  But Jon Niese followed with yet another left hook for good measure, and the Mets’ thirty-first win of the season.

Take that!

Topics: Andres Torres, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Dillon Gee, Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, New York Mets, R.A. Dickey, Rising Apple

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