Like fine wine, R.A. Dickey gets better with age.
Coming of a well-deserved National League Pitcher of the Month award, Dickey aims to continue his extraordinary season when he leads the New York Mets into the finale of a three-game set versus the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.
The 37-year-old knuckleballer threw back-to-back one-hitters and went 5-0 with a diminutive 0.93 earned run average in June. Dickey, who was named recently to his first All-Star team, is 10-0 with a 1.51 ERA in his last 13 starts and threw eight scoreless innings of three-hit ball in Friday's 9-0 victory at Dodger Stadium. The right-hander struck out 10 batters to improve to 12-1 in 16 starts to go along with a 2.15 ERA.
Dickey has allowed just five runs over his last seven starts and will try to stay unbeaten at home. He is 6-0 with a 1.85 ERA in eight starts at Citi Field and beat Philadelphia back on April 13 on the road. In the 5-2 win over the Phillies, Dickey gave up one run in seven innings to improve to 3-3 with a 2.40 ERA in seven career starts in this series.
Chris Young failed in his attempt to keep the Phillies in the loss column in Wednesday's 9-2 loss on Independence Day, as he allowed three runs and five hits -- two homers -- in seven innings to absorb the loss. Relievers Miguel Batista, Tim Byrdak and Jeremy Hefner combined to give up six runs for the Mets, who had won five of six games and fell 4 1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East.
"I just didn't execute a couple pitches and they got away from me," said Young.
Scott Hairston homered and David Wright knocked in the other run in defeat. The Mets are 26-10 when Wright drives in a run and 29-14 when he scores. Daniel Murphy was 1-for-4 and entered the contest with 14 RBI in his last six games.
The Mets, who recorded an 11-1 win over Philadelphia in Tuesday's series opener, will welcome the Chicago Cubs to town for three games on their current homestand.
Philadelphia witnessed a pair of firsts on Wednesday: a victory with Chase Utley back in the lineup and Cliff Lee reaching the win column.
In 13 previous starts, Lee was still winless on the season until the offense bailed him out with nine runs and 12 hits. Lee permitted two runs and seven hits in eight innings of work, struck out nine and walked one. Jonathan Papelbon secured the win with a scoreless ninth inning.
"I did my job effectively, gave my team a chance to win and we won," said Lee, who was doused with Gatorade by a few teammates. "To me that's the main thing. That's always what I try to do. Today I was successful."
Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Ty Wigginton all homered and finished with two RBI, while Jimmy Rollins drove in a pair of runs and scored twice to help the club snap a six-game losing streak and win for only the third time in 11 tries. The Phillies, who are still last in the NL East standings and were 0-6 in Utley's return, are 1-4 on a six-game trek and will host Atlanta for three games over the weekend.
Cole Hamels has beaten the Mets twice already this season and hopes a third time will be a charm this evening. Hamels defeated the Mets in an 8-2 win on April 15 in south Philly, then posted another victory May 28 at Citi Field. However, the left-hander hasn't fared too well in his career against New York, going 5-10 with a 4.34 earned run average in 19 starts.
Hamels has lost three of his last five decisions overall and is coming off Saturday's 3-2 setback at Miami in which he allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings of work. The loss dropped him to 10-4 in 16 starts and raised his ERA to 3.08. Hamels, who has given up three runs or fewer in 13 of his 16 starts, has enjoyed pitching on the road this season as evidenced by his 5-1 mark in seven road starts.
The 2008 World Series MVP met with Phils general manager Ruben Amaro this week and many speculate it was in regards to the recent rumors that the southpaw is being used as trade bait. Hamels is a free agent at season's end and is expected to land a deal near the range of $100 million or more. When asked if a new deal could get done with Philadelphia, Hamels said, "I don't know. I guess it's up to both of us."
The Phillies have lost seven of 11 matchups with New York this season, but won two of three at Citi Field from May 28-30.