Cy Young Award candidate R.A. Dickey makes a first-time bid for a 20th victory on Thursday when the New York Mets host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of a four-game series at Citi Field.
Dickey, who entered the season with 41 wins in 204 career big-league appearances, got to No. 19 with an eight-inning stint on Sept. 22 in which he allowed two runs on six hits in a 4-3 victory over Miami.
The win stopped a brief two-start skid in which Dickey had been beaten by Washington and Philadelphia while allowing six runs on 13 hits across 14 innings while the Mets were outscored, 8-4.
Dickey is even with Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto at 19 victories and is a win behind Washington's Gio Gonzalez.
He's 2-2 in six career meetings with the Pirates while posting a 2.52 earned run average in 39 1/3 innings, striking out 36 batters and allowing a .201 opposition batting average.
Dickey will be opposed by veteran righty Kevin Correia, who's split his last four decisions while ticking down his ERA from 4.40 to 4.11.
The 32-year-old was on the short end of a 4-1 decision at Houston in his most recent start while being touched for three earned runs on seven hits in six innings.
One start earlier, he'd allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings while toppling the Chicago Cubs, 3-0, on Sept. 17.
Correia is 2-4 in 12 career meetings with the Mets with a 3.23 ERA.
On Wednesday, Ruben Tejada went 4-for-5 with two RBI and rookie Jeremy Hefner threw seven scoreless innings, as New York blanked the Pirates, 6-0. Daniel Murphy, Scott Hairston and Kelly Shoppach each contributed an RBI for the Mets, who have won five of their last six.
Hefner (3-7) allowed three hits and matched his career-best total for strikeouts in a game with seven - along with posting four 1-2-3 innings.
For Hefner, it was a nice rebound from his last outing, when he allowed seven runs without recording an out in the first inning of an eventual 16-1 loss to the Phillies six days ago.
David Wright, who scored a run, went 2-for-4 to give him 1,420 hits in his nine-year career, surpassing Ed Kranepool for most hits in Mets franchise history.
"From as long as I can remember, you work at this game, you love playing this game, but like I said, I'm lucky to be playing this game for a living," Wright said. "To be able to accomplish these individual feats, it means a lot. But I think I'll be able to sit back and enjoy it more when I'm done playing."
Jeff Locke (0-3), making his ninth career start, took the loss for Pittsburgh, throwing just 3 2/3 innings and allowing five runs on nine hits. Locke struck out five and walked one in the defeat, which officially eliminated the Pirates from playoff contention.
"It seems like the game really sped up on me - you don't execute a few pitches and you walk a guy, and guys just go station to station," Locke said. "You've got to know when there are opportunities to put guys away, when you get ahead 0-1, 0-2, those have got to be outs. They're not always going to be, that's just the nature of the game, but you've got to do the best job you can do."
The Mets won two of three from the Pirates in their lone series of 2012, from May 21-23 in Pittsburgh.