ascent of Matt Harvey has been great. David Wright breaking the Mets club records for RBIs and Hits are also nice. Johan Santana's No Hitter, of course, will last a lifetime. But, with one Home Game remaining, there was one order of business still left to accomplish, and that was to get R.A. Dickey his 20th victory of the season. This was a milestone that, not only had not been accomplished by a Met since Frank Viola in 1990, would stand to certify Dickey as having completed a resurrection beyond anyone's wildest dreams. A man long since forgotten, tossed aside and considered a washup, somehow had overcome it all, through his mastery of the most elusive of pitches, and made himself not just a good pitcher, but a great pitcher, a guy who the Mets could count on to take the mound every 5th game and deliver a solid performance. He had one last opportunity to take the mound in front of fans who have been behind him all the way, who turned out for one final game to see our team and revel in what would hopefully be the final exclamation point on a magical season.
Dickey delivered that exclamation point, winning his 20th game with a performance that seemed to exemplify the story of the journey it took for him to get to this point.
It certainly wasn't smooth sailing for Dickey. Though I ached sorrowfully for not being there, I did tune in on the radio in my office for one final Afternoon with R.A., a combination that has usually meant victory this season. A prior engagement meant it was the 2nd inning by time I tuned in, and Dickey was already down 1-0, and shortly thereafter was down 2-0 after a difficult 2nd inning. But Dickey got out of that jam without any further damage, something he's done all season. Right away, Ike Davis hit a Home Run that cut the lead in half, and Howie Rose noted that Ike rounded the bases with a little extra "Oomph" in his step. Howie surmised that Dickey's teammates wanted to win this one for him even more than Dickey himself. A few batters later, Mike Baxter made a bid to tie the game, but for a miracle, Endy-like catch from Travis Snider. Momentary Met Rod Barajas hit a Home Run of his own a couple of innings later, making the game 3-1 Pittsburgh. This was a bit disconcerting, because Dickey clearly wasn't on top of things, as can sometimes happen with a pitch as fickle as the Knuckleball. And, of course, you could never be too sure whether or not the Mets could generate enough offense to hit their way to a win.
The answer, ultimately, would be that I shouldn't have worried. Dickey settled down after that and stopped the Pirates cold. The Knuckleball fluttered elegantly, away from Pirate bats and into Josh Thole (or any waiting fielder)'s glove. On the other side, the Mets scraped out another run in the 4th, Daniel Murphy tied the game in the 5th, and David Wright followed by delivering the knockout with a 3-run Home Run, giving the Mets and Dickey the lead for the first time.
Now ahead by 3 runs, Dickey went back out and completed the 6th and 7th innings. After 7 innings and 111 pitches, I assumed he was done. But, Terry Collins felt otherwise. Though he may have been out of steam, Collins wanted Dickey to take the mound one more time, to soak in the cheers one more time. He'd earned this. Dickey took his at bat to a thunderous ovation, and then took the mound one final time. He struck out two more batters in the 8th, to tie his career high of 13 in a game, and 222 for the season (another number not reached by a Met since 1990). But, after a two-out walk, that was enough. Collins wouldn't leave him hanging, and so once a man got on base, Dickey was removed, and given one more grand sendoff. Though Jon Rauch's effort was slightly ugly, he bridged it to Bobby Parnell, who drove it home, sealing Dickey's milestone victory and certifying an already great season as one that will live on in Mets lore, and perhaps one that will end with an even more significant victory come November.
I don't know, in my 27 seasons of following the Mets, that I've ever seen Mets fans rally behind one pitcher for one game quite like this. Nobody's worked harder to get to this point. Nobody deserves the accolades more.