NEW YORK -- What more is there to say?
In season that has gone awry, R.A. Dickey has stepped up time and time again. Citi Field is quieted by disappointment, but rarely when the knuckleballer takes the mound. He has put together a campaign to remember.
And New York's fans -- 30,332 of them on Saturday -- are just as big a part of it. No matter what Dickey did in Saturday's 4-3 win over the Marlins, he was met with a standing ovation. He almost -- which doesn't count in baseball -- hit a home run over the left field fence in the sixth inning, and after it was caught trotted back to the dugout to cheers.
But he deserved it all. Dickey tossed eight-plus innings before he left with a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning with runners on second and third. Jon Rauch made it interesting by serving up a three-run homer to John Buck -- which, in spite of deflecting off the foul pole was initially ruled a foul ball and had to be reviewed -- but kept the lead intact as Dickey earned the 19th win that had eluded him in two previous tries.
"In the moment it's hard to really enjoy it, because there's a lot you really want to accomplish," Dickey said about hearing fans chant his name. "I'm trying to learn to celebrate things better, but you certainly don't want it to be a distraction from what's going on. But I'm certainly grateful for it and I appreciate it. The overall energy in the park today was great."
Mets manager Terry Collins has repeatedly likened Dickey's starts to the feel of a no-hitter, meaning his players will do whatever they physically can to back him both in the field and at the plate.
Saturday was a perfect example of that. New York's first two runs came from the most unlikely of sources -- a two-run jack off the bat of Jason Bay, his first homer at Citi Field since April 20. Scott Hairston added a solo shot in the fourth -- which also had to be reviewed -- before a bobbled ball by Marlins' first baseman Carlos Lee allowed the Mets final run in the fifth. The Mets scored all four runs, and also worked three walks, against Miami starter Mark Buehrle.
"It's hard. It is hard," Dickey said about being one win away from the golden standard of 20. "You would see a lot of 20 game winners out there if it wasn't hard. And a lot of things have to go your way, and I'll be the first to say it. I've had to have guys score behind me, I've had guys play great defense.
"I'll be the first to admit that it's not all me, and I'm ok with that. I go out and try to be consistent, and that's all I try to do. I try to give my team a chance to win every time out, and this has been the product of that this year. Last year I was 8-13, I didn't change my perspective, I didn't change my mentality, it's just the way things have ended up this year."
As much credit as Dickey gives players on his own team, the Marlins probably deserve a fair share as well. Miami has not had an answer for him this season -- with the win Dickey improved to 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA in five starts against them. It's the first time in Marlins history a pitcher has defeated them five times.
"That's the reason he's got a great chance to win the Cy Young Award," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He's throwing the ball very well. He threw the ball pretty good today."
Dickey still trails Washington's Gio Gonzalez for the league lead in wins -- Gonzalez got No. 20 on Saturday against the Brewers -- but the two credited runs lowered his National League-best ERA to 2.66. His four strikeouts upped his season total to 209, tops in the NL.
"Nobody wants this guy to win more than me," Collins. "First of all, I think the world of him as a human being, and secondly I think the world of him as a pitcher."
But from the second the final out was recorded, thought shifted to Thursday when the knuckleballer will go for his 20th win in front of the fans whose support he values so much. In all likelihood, Thursday will be his second-to-last start of the season, leaving him with two opportunities to join the likes of Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, David Cone and Frank Viola -- the only five pitchers in team history to record 20-win seasons.
"These fans have been so loyal to me all year, and what a unique thing it would be to get to share that with them on that day. But you had to win today, and they showed up today. I don't know how many were here, but whoever was here it was pretty loud, and I certainly felt appreciated."
"We've got to figure out a way to score some runs on Thursday for him because our fans deserve to see him win 20," Collins said. "Our club needs it, and the organization should be very proud of the fact that they stuck with this guy."
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.