Friday, August 13, 2010

Thanks to no K-Rod, Jerry Manuel couldn't ruin R.A. Dickey's complete-game shutout again

On June 23, the Mets led the Tigers, 5-0, after eight innings. Starting pitcher R.A. Dickey had thrown only 97 pitches, allowing four hits, two walks, and retiring the last 13 batters he had faced. Dickey tried to talk manager Jerry Manuel into letting him finish the game, but as Dickey said afterwards, "I was unsuccessful."

That day, Dickey lost a chance for the second complete-game shutout of his career because closer Francisco Rodriguez had not pitched in five days and Manuel wanted to give him some work. K-Rod pitched a scoreless ninth and the Mets beat the Tigers.

Tonight, Dickey had thrown 99 pitches when he took his shutout into the ninth. He had only allowed one hit, but it was a much tighter game - 1-0. And the Mets were playing their division rival Philadelphia. With 9-1-2 due up, the Phillies' top of the order would be coming up.

If K-Rod had been available tonight instead of serving the second game of his two-game suspension, there's a good chance Manuel would have brought him in. Manuel manages save situations by the book. Ninth inning, 1-0, facing Philly - that's book.

Manuel also seems too slow to trust players without a track record. Gary Matthews Jr. started over Angel Pagan on Opening Day. Even when Pagan put together an All-Star caliber first half, he was initially relegated to a platoon with Jeff Francoeur when Carlos Beltran returned.

Also, K-Rod needs to finish a certain number of games over this season and next for his 2012 option to vest, which could have something to do with the manager trying to placate his closer by using him whether or not he is needed.

So despite Dickey's success this season, K-Rod might well have been called on to close if not for recent events. And who knows, K-Rod might have closed it out - he had been on a hot streak lately.

But in K-Rod's absence, Manuel was forced to give Dickey the chance to show that he could complete a one-hit shutout. And now the Mets have a starter who had done that much more to solidify his place in the rotation next year.

Maybe it was the curse of denying Dickey his complete game on June 23, but that win over the Tigers, the Mets' second straight over Detroit, was the last time the Mets won two in a row before tonight.

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