R.A. Dickey became the New York Mets’ first 20-game winner in 22 seasons, pitching his team to a 6-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Starting the Mets’ home finale at Citi Field in New York, the knuckleball-throwing Dickey tied his career high with 13 strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings, raising his record to 20-6 and becoming the first Met to reach the 20-game mark since Frank Viola in 1990.
Dickey, 37, exited with a 6-3 lead and then watched reliever Jon Rauch give up a two-run home run to Alex Presley in the ninth before being replaced by Bobby Parnell, who earned a two-out save. Dickey threw a season-high 128 pitches to earn the win as the Mets raised their record for the year to 72-84.
“This is as much for you as it is for me and I’m happy to celebrate with everybody,” Dickey told the stadium fans in a televised interview. “The season hasn’t gone as we wanted but this is a special moment right here.”
Pittsburgh (76-80) used four second-inning hits to score two runs off Dickey for the early lead.
The Mets’ Ike Davis hit his 31st home run in the bottom of the inning off Pirates starter Kevin Correia, sending the ball well over the right-field fence. Later in the inning, Mike Baxter had a home-run try taken away by Pirates right fielder Travis Snider, who scaled the chain-linked fence and reached several feet above its top before catching the ball in the webbing of his glove.
Former Mets catcher Rod Barajas, who hit a run-scoring double off Dickey in the second inning, added a solo homer in the fourth as the Pirates took a 3-1 lead.
Scott Hairston’s single scored David Murphy in the bottom of the fourth inning and the Mets took the lead for good in the fifth as Murphy hit a run-scoring single and David Wright a three-run homer to right field, ending the outing for Correia (11-11).
Viola went 20-12 with a 2.67 ERA in 1990, finishing third in the voting for the Cy Young Award as the National League’s best pitcher behind the Pirates’ Doug Drabek and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ramon Martinez.
Dickey, a Cy Young candidate this season, passed Clayton Kershaw for the National League strikeout lead today, finishing with more than 10 for the seventh game this season. With six games remaining in the Mets’ season, Dickey has 222 strikeouts. His previous best was 134 last season, when he went 8-13.
Dickey, who entered the game leading the NL with a 2.66 earned-run average and five complete games, never won more than 11 games in nine previous seasons in Major League Baseball. The victory raised his career record to 61-56.
In June, Dickey became the first major leaguer since 1988 to throw consecutive one-hitters.
The crosstown New York Yankees had six 20-game winners in the 22 years since Viola’s feat: Andy Pettitte in 1996 and 2003, David Cone in 1998, Roger Clemens in 2001, Mike Mussina in 2008 and CC Sabathia in 2010.
The last knuckleballer to record 20 wins in a season was Joe Niekro, who went 20-12 in 1980.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen left the game in the seventh inning after landing hard on his left knee while diving to trap a ball. McCutchen went 0-for-4, lowering his batting average to .332. He leads the San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey, who has a .331 average, in the race for the NL batting crown.
The announced attendance at the game was 31,506.