9:50 am Sep. 12, 2012
The 2012 New York Mets are no longer chasing team accomplishments.
They've been formally eliminated from the National League East race this week by the Washington Nationals, with the wild card elimination seemingly around the corner. Even their race for third place has cratered, with the Phillies now six games up on the Mets with 20 games to go.
But for the Mets, who started Jason Bay in left field explicitly to improve the defense, there's one individual whose pursuits serve as motivation: R.A. Dickey.
Dickey is still having a sensational season. He isn't throwing consecutive one-hitters anymore, but he has been quite effective in the second half, following an exceptional first half.
Unfortunately, Dickey did not receive the support he needed Tuesday night at Citi Field against the Nationals, and while the Mets fell 5-3, the far more important metric was that Dickey remained at 18 wins.
Despite the setback, virtually every pitcher achievement is available to Dickey, with an estimated four starts left. Here's his path to each of them:
Twenty wins is as simple as winning two decisions in his final four starts. Unfortunately, the Mets offense continues to struggle to replicate anything like its acceptable performance earlier this season, so Dickey will need to pitch even better than he did back then to assure himself of reaching 20 wins. He'd be the first Met to do it since Frank Viola in 1990.
Unfortunately, the loss Tuesday night, coupled with Gio Gonzalez's win the night before against the Mets, means Dickey now trails Gonzalez for the National League wins lead, 19-18. Fortunately for Dickey, Gonzalez may be taken out early of his last start or two ahead of the playoffs for the October-bound Nationals, while the Mets have nothing to play for other than Dickey's glory. The same could be true for Johnny Cueto, who trails Dickey by one win, 18-17, and plays for the playoff-bound Cincinnati Reds.
Dickey has the E.R.A. title in his grasp right now, with a 2.68 mark that just bests Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (2.70) and Cueto (2.71). Kershaw recently had a start pushed back, but pitched seven shutout innings Tuesday night to put himself into the E.R.A. title consideration. With just 12 wins, though, the reigning Cy Young Award winner isn't likely to repeat.
Kershaw did strike out five, however, extending his lead in strikeouts to 206-197 over Dickey, who struck out an uncharacteristically low two. Dickey needs to put up some of the double-digit strikeout totals he had earlier this season to overtake Kershaw; he hasn't done so since August 9, however.
History indicates that where Dickey ends up in these three pitching categories will essentially dictate whether he'll be the first Cy Young winner on the Mets since Dwight Gooden in 1985. Getting to a nice round number like 20 wins and taking home at least two of the three categories should do it.
Accordingly, Mets fans will be counting those stats, and only occasionally glancing up at the scoreboard between now and the end of the season, just to make sure the Mets are ahead when Dickey exits.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Yankees managed to lose a game to the Red Sox, 4-3, in which Jon Lester walked seven and Hiroki Kuroda provided a quality start. The Orioles won, so the two teams are tied, with the Rays two behind them both.
The good news is, Andy Pettitte is a healthy simulated game Wednesday away from returning.
The Knicks invited four players to training camp.
The Nets signed backup small forward Josh Childress.
Kaka's brother has come to the Red Bulls for a trial. They have until Friday to add him or any other player.