The Mets Need R.A. Dickey More Than Ever Today

By Matt Musico

Before the Mets opened their three-game series in Washington against the Nationals, reporters asked Terry Collins whether he felt this series was extremely important. Instead of giving the cookie-cutter answer by saying that every series is important and each game means something, the New York manager came out and said that this series is extremely important, even more so after getting swept out of Atlanta. They’re playing the Nationals six times in the next week or so, and coming into this series, they were six games behind them in the division. Well, now that they’ve dropped two straight one-run contests, it will be up to R.A. Dickey to get the Mets back on track.

After tearing up competition in the first half (12-1, 2.40 ERA, 0.93 WHIP), he’s experienced his own struggles of late, giving up five earned runs in three of his last four starts. The knuckleballer told the media recently that he’s confident this is just a blip in the radar and he will regain some of the excellence he showed the baseball world in the first half. Well, today is his biggest start of the season, trying to help the Mets avoid their seventh straight loss, which would put them back at 46-46 on the season, bringing them back to .500 for the first time since April 23rd.

What’s ironic to me is that all season, we’ve been able to depend on Dickey to be one of the team’s stoppers (along with Johan Santana), yet he throws on of the most unpredictable pitches in the history of the game. However, even though I haven’t watched many knuckleball pitchers in the Major Leagues (mainly just Tim Wakefield), I’ve never seen anyone with this type of control of the pitch before. It’s as if Dickey is completely defying the odds…as if he hasn’t done that enough with his entire professional career as it is.

R.A. Dickey has been a great story throughout the first half of the baseball season, culminating with his appearance in this year’s All-Star game, but after losing two heart breakers in Washington, the Mets desperately need to get a win to not only break this losing streak, but to re-gain some of that swagger they had before the All-Star break. There is no one else I’d rather have on the mound than #43 to get that swagger back. The young Nationals hitters had a tough time in their first match-up against Dickey, putting up a triple slash of .167/.231/.167 in 24 total at-bats.

So, if anyone says to you that this game isn’t important, especially since Washington has now won all three head-to-head match-ups this season, they’re nuts. Getting a win this afternoon at Nationals Park is imperative for the Mets, yet it won’t be easy as they’re facing another NL All-Star in Gio Gonzalez. However, if I had my choice between the two, I’m taking the knuckleballer, as he’s kept us in virtually every game he’s pitched this season. Let’s see if he can once again put this team on his back.