Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Game #43: Mets 3, Pirates 2

Mets starter R. A. Dickey did not issue a walk as he struck out a career high over seven innings. (NYTimes.com)
Even with Frank Francisco manning the last inning, there was no way New York was letting this W get away from R.A. Dickey.

Dickey struck out a career-high 11 batters and the Mets scored 2 runs in the 8th inning en route to a nail-biting 3-2 win over the Pirates.

The Good Stuff:
  • In baseball's ballroom of a ballpark, the knuckleball was in its spiffed up best, and one Robert Allen Dickey was its dashing escort. R.A. may as well have worn a tuxedo tonight he looked so good, going the Solid Seven allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, walking none and dishing out 11 Ks with that most baffling of all pitches. It was Dickey's 6th win in 9 starts this year, bringing him within 2 Ws of his total from all of last season. His ERA stands at a solid 3.45, and even that is misleading: 8 of those runs came in one rainy start in Atlanta; take that outing away and he's down to 2.38. He's on pace for 20 Ws in 2012, and knuckelball or not, he deserves a spot on the NL All-Star team. Here's hoping Tony La Russa isn't discriminated against the slow dancer.
  • Locked in a duel with James McDonald, a pretty good pitcher in his own right who picked up 8 Ks of his own in 7 innings, New York was tied 1-1 going into the 8th inning. After Andres Torres struck out pinch-hitting for Dickey (see Bad Stuff for more), Mike Baxter got on with a double that skipped out of Andrew McCutchen's glove in center. After Kirk Nieuwenhuis fought back an 0-2 count to draw the walk and David Wright struck out again (again, see Bad Stuff for more), Lucas Duda came up an blasted a line drive just off the mitt of Garrett Jones at first base to score Baxter and make it 2-1. Daniel Murphy then hit a line drive straight to third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who mishandled it and allowed Nieuwenhuis to score unearned.
  • After Jon Rauch let in a run but got through 2 outs in the 8th, "Big-Time Timmy-Jim" Tim Byrdak came in to strike out Alvarez and notch his astounding 12th straight one-and-done appearance. Then in the 9th, circus music all queued up as Howie Rose on WFAN called for, Frank Francisco sent Pittsburgh down 1-2-3 to end the ballgame.
    • That unearned run in the 8th turned out to be the difference. Hey, we gave them one yesterday, they decided to return the favor today. Now we're even.
The Bad Stuff:
  • David Wright had a rare rough day at the plate, going 0-4 and striking out thrice. Everyone has those kinds of days, but with David as red-hot as he's been all year, it's still jarring to see him put up an oh-fer.
  • Back to that pinch-hit in the 8th. R.A. Dickey had only thrown 89 pitches and was mowing down Pirates like he had his own lawn service, but in a tie ballgame Terry Collins opted to send out a struggling Andres Torres to try to get on base. Torres is mired in a slump and now "hitting the interstate," that is, in the .100s. Even with a pitcher up, it was a pitcher that nevertheless made contact more often than not (WFAN mentioned Dickey's only swung and missed twice all season, outstanding for a pitcher at the plate). It didn't cost the team at all in this game, but I'll question the decision to take out your red-hot (well, as "hot" as a knuckleballer can be) pitcher for a slumping pinch-hitter with an inconsistent-to-say-the-least bullpen backing the team up.
Final Analysis:
The last time R.A. Dickey set a personal strikeout record, it was around this time last year against this same Pirates team and even the same pitcher; in Game #54 last year, the Pittsburgh bats were the ones that woke up late and Dickey's stellar  outing was ruined. This time, it was R.A. who got another strikeout record, the W, and the last laugh over James McDonald and the Bucs.

It was a nice bounceback win for the Mets, who were able to put the awfulness of last night's L behind them and tie the series. One more win tomorrow afternoon and this tumultuous road trip finishes up 3-3, which you have to admit looks a lot better than it's felt.


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