Are the Mets for real? Is R.A. Dickey for real? Maybe they're the same question.
After tonight's win over the Tigers, the Mets are now 41-30, eleven games over .500. With tonight's win, Dickey moves to 6-0. Hisanori Takahashi is 6-2. Without the two big surprises of the Mets' staff, the team would be one game over .500, around what many expected of them this season.
Everyone keeps waiting for Dickey to come back to earth, but he now has wins in six straight starts and an ERA of 2.33. Six of his seven starts have been quality starts. Dickey has given up more than three runs only once, and in that start he gave up four runs in seven innings.
If Dickey keeps up this pace, he'll belong on the All-Star team. I'm not quite ready to go that gaga over him, but it's starting to look as if he's a legitimate part of the rotation.
And he'd better be. Takahashi too. Even if Johan Santana starts pitching like the Santana of old, no sure thing, Mike Pelfrey will probably not continue at his 9-2 pace. The Mets struck gold with Dickey and Takahashi - what are the odds that they can do it again with their farm system?
The Mets just signed Ramon Ortiz after he was released by the Dodgers. Ortiz is 37 with a lifetime ERA of 4.93. He has only had one season with an ERA under 4, back in 2002 for the champion Angels. If the Mets have to turn to Ortiz as a starter, they are in big trouble.
Most of the starters available in trade don't look much better. Jake Westbrook basically has had one good year in his career, and that was back in 2004 when he was 14-9 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. That was his only full season with an ERA under 4. Westbrook also doesn't strike people out; even in 2004, he had just 116 K in 215 2/3 innings.
Kevin Millwood is 1-8 with a 5.12 ERA. He might do better away from the awful Orioles - Millwood has given up 19 homers, 14 at home. Presumably many of those balls might not go out of Citi Field. But on the road, where Millwood has given up five homers in 50 innings, he still has an ERA of 5.04.
If the Mets don't want to give up top prospects - and they shouldn't - they won't get Cliff Lee.
Atlanta just lost, so the Mets are now just a half game out of first. The Mets lead the wild-card race by 1 1/2 games over the Giants, who lost tonight as well. And they wouldn't be in this position without a 35-year-old knuckleballer who started the season in the minors.