With R.A. Dickey on the verge of trading his New York blue for Toronto blue, we remember his soon-to-be last great moment with the franchise that took a chance on him with our next stop on the Amazin’ Ten countdown.
#3 – Dickey’s 20th Win (September 27)
It was the Mets’ 2012 home finale and a sizable crowd of 31,506 crossed the turnstiles at Citi Field to witness one of two things: the shaving of Keith Hernandez’s famed mustache and R.A. Dickey’s first shot at a 20th W against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickey was originally scheduled to start the next day to start a series in Atlanta, but Terry Collins granted the knuckleballer’s request to try for #20 in front of the hometown crowd. And so at approximately 1:00 on a Thursday afternoon in the city, the man with the crazy pitch and an even crazier story took the mound to try his luck at becoming the first New York Mets’ first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990.
Things got rocky for R.A. in the 2nd inning, as two doubles and two singles led to two Pittsburgh runs. A bad omen in two different ways: first, two runs were more than Dickey was used to giving up in a whole game, and second, at this point in the season the Mets needed a week to score two runs. But Ike Davis made up half the deficit with his 31st home run of the season in the bottom of the 2nd. Two batters later, Mike Baxter was robbed of his own home run by right fielder Travis Snider and one of the greatest catches anyone will ever see. 2-1 Pirates with plenty of baseball left to play.
The Pirates got another run off Dickey in the 4th on Rod Barajas’s solo home run. Down 3-1, R.A. was in danger of *gulp* missing out on a quality start. But Dickey would buckle down, and while he didn’t dominate Pittsburgh like he had dominated so many other teams in 2012, he got the job done throughout the rest of his time in the game.
Daniel Murphy and David Wright led off the bottom of the 4th with back-to-back singles. After David popped out, Scott Hairston canceled out Barajas’s earlier homer with an RBI single. The next two men would fail to bring the tying run home, but it was still in reach at 3-2.
It was the 5th inning when the Mets would reach out and grab their golden opportunity. Andres Torres led off with a walk, and after Dickey struck out (hey, he can’t do it all, right?), Ruben Tejada got on with a single. Daniel Murphy then came through on Kevin Correia’s 0-1 fastball, slicing a game-tying single into center. Up came David Wright, looking to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was the first half of his season. Consider it recaptured: Wright connected with a crack of the bat they could hear in Vermont and sent Correia’s pitch high, high to right center and over the wall. Three-run home run, 6-3 Good Guys.
A three-run cushion was all Dickey needed. He breezed through the 6th, 7th, and start of the 8th. But after walking Snider on eight pitches (the last three of them balls), Collins had seen enough and signaled for a reliever. As Dickey trudged toward the dugout, he tipped his count to the adoring fans, who applauded him for giving all he could that day and that season. His final line on this afternoon: 7.2 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, and a whopping 13 strikeouts. Not bad for a guy who pitched the whole season with a strained abdominal muscle.
He had done all he could in this game; now it was up to the bullpen. But Jon Rauch breezed through Barajas faster than you can say “oy vey,” and the Mets stood just three outs from victory. Rauch’s 9th inning? Not as smooth. After a walk and a strikeout he served up a two-run homer to light-hitting Alex Presley that made it 6-5. That brought Bobby Parnell to the mound, and the proven non-closer needed seven agonizing pitches to get Josh Harrison to hit a groundball for the second out.
One out stood from Dickey and history, and it took the form of Jose Tabata. On Parnell’s second pitch, a 97 mph 1-0 fastball, Tabata hit a soft liner to right field. Mike Baxter, who had already saved one pitching milestone this season, raced in its direction. The Whitestone Kid didn’t need to sacrifice quite as much to make this catch, as he stabbed in in midair to “put it in the books.”
So R.A. Dickey had his magical #20. At age 37, he was the third-oldest (behind Mike Mussina and Jamie Moyer) to accomplish the feat. And as he addressed Kevin Burkhardt and the Citi faithful after the game, R.A. did it with nothing but class, as he had all season:
This is as much about you as it is for me, and I’m happy to celebrate it with everybody. Thank you!
Dickey would not a 21st win, picking up a no-decision in Miami for his last start of the season, but he did pick up his 230th strikeout, which made his humble preface in Wherever I Wind Up historically inaccurate. A month and a half after his Flushing farewell, Dickey became the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young Award, capping an Amazin’ year for the Most Interesting Man in Baseball.
And the Mets are about to trade him. That’s how they’ll screw this up, Mr. Stewart.
September 27: the third most Amazin’ game of 2012. Next week we’ll bring you the top two Amazin’ moments from a season full of them. Through process of elimination you can probably figure out which two are left…but if like surprised, stay tuned!
Amazin’ Ten of 2012
#3 – Dickey’s 20th Win (September 27)