(Sports Network) - It's safe to say that not many would have guessed that R.A. Dickey would end up being the Mets best pitcher of the season. As he looks to continue his incredible run, Pirates starter Zach Duke may have trouble keeping pace.
Dickey goes for a career-best 11th victory of the season while Duke attempts to rebound from the shortest outing of his career tonight in the second meeting of a four-game set between New York and Pittsburgh at Citi Field.
The 35-year-old Dickey ranks ninth in the National League with a 2.91 earned run average, even if he has just a 10-6 mark to show for it. He rebounded after giving up seven runs over six innings in a loss at Chicago on Sept. 3 by holding the Nationals to a pair of runs over six frames on Wednesday in a 3-2 triumph.
"I just tried to slow the game down," Dickey said. "I've found the more I'm able to do that, the better results I've been having. It takes a long time to learn how to do that, it has for me at least."
Dickey, whose previous career-high win total was nine set in 38 games (13 starts) with the Rangers in 2003, is an excellent 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA in eight starts at home this year. However, the right-handed knuckleballer has a 5.87 ERA in two games lifetime against the Pirates, one of those a start.
Duke hasn't been anywhere near as effective as Dickey. The Pirates left-hander has allowed four runs in each of his last three starts and had a two-decision win streak end on Wednesday versus the Braves. Duke lasted just one-plus inning and 11 batters, allowing six hits and two walks.
"Just wasn't commanding the ball," said Duke, who is 7-13 with a 5.47 ERA in 25 starts. "I wasn't able to put the fastball where I wanted to. The times I did, it found a hole."
The 27-year-old has a 6.14 road ERA this year, but is 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA in seven career starts versus the Mets. That includes a win on Aug. 22 in which he outpitched Johan Santana with seven innings of one-run ball.
Offense was a premium in Monday night's opener as Nick Evans singled home Ruben Tejada with one out in the 10th inning to give the Mets a 1-0 victory and their major-league leading 19th shutout of the season, one ahead of both the Phillies and Padres.
In just his second major league start, Dillon Gee contributed six scoreless innings to the victory, New York's fourth in six games, while Hisanori Takahashi got the win with two scoreless frames of relief.
"I was definitely upset that I didn't feel that good tonight, but it's definitely a positive step in the right direction that I can go out there without my best stuff and figure out a way to get some people out," Gee said.
James McDonald got the start for the Pirates and spun eight scoreless innings, working around five hits, but Chan-Ho Park absorbed the loss for the Pirates, who have lost four of their last five.
"We've got to figure out a way to win," Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen said. "It's all about the process. We feel good about where we are and the kind of team we have and what we're able to do. Now it's about trying to win those close games."
New York took two of three in Pittsburgh from Aug. 20-22.