Yet again, the New York Mets' bullpen proved it's their Achilles heal, turning a close game Wednesday afternoon into a blowout loss. Luckily, the Mets on Thursday night turn to the man who is among the league leaders in innings pitched, and therefore is the kindest to New York's relievers, R.A Dickey.
Taking the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies is the pitcher who's kept their season afloat amidst the across-the-board struggles, Cole Hamels, so the All-Star knuckleballer has his work cut out for him. Game time for the rubber match is 7:10 p.m at Citi Field. and can be seen on SNY.
We all know the story by know. Quite simply, the 37-year-old Dickey has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the league, leading it with 12 wins, compiling the fourth-best (first if you count only those with at least 100 innings) ERA at 2.15, pacing the MLB with 0.88 WHIP and ranking second with 116 strikeouts. All done with the knuckleball, making this a remarkable first-half of dominance. Johan Santana has had a great comeback season, but Dickey's ascension into an ace has been the key to the Mets' season, one many expected to be full of disappointment. New York is 44-38, 4 1/2 out of the NL East lead and a half-game back of a Wild Card spot, and the starting pitching led by the dominance of their knuckelballer has been a huge factor.
It won't be easy for the Mets, though. The left-handed Hamels is a frontline starter in his own right. He's 10-4 this season with a 3.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a strikeout per inning. New York also has had its fair share of struggles against lefties; it scored twice against Cliff Lee on Tuesday on seven hits and a walk, but also struck out nine times ... en route to Lee's first win of the season.
However, all it may take for a win is one run with the way Dickey has pitched. He has given up a total of five runs (all in one start) over his last seven outings and six of those seven have been scoreless. This start will be his last before the All-Star Game, an event that will really highlight his dominance as he's also the frontrunner for the starting nod.
More important things for the Mets is that they can't let one loss snowball into a bunch if they want to continue to stay in the thick of things. The Amazins need to win series against weak opposition. The 37-46 Phillies and the 31-50 Cubs this weekend offer the perfect opportunity to end the first half on a high note.