Outside of Citi Field Wednesday afternoon, in a position visible to all passing motorists, the large stadium marquee displayed a photo of R.A. Dickey.
It hardly mattered that the Mets had a game scheduled for later in the night, one that would be started by another pitcher. The spotlight belongs to Dickey, whose bid to record only the ninth 20-win season in franchise history represents the last possible consolation prize from another lost season in Flushing.
"I think there's obviously some energy that will be built into it just because of the nature of things but I don't think it's any additional pressure," the 37-year-old knuckleballer said yesterday before the Mets' 6-0 win over the Pirates.
No Mets pitcher has won 20 games in a season since Frank Viola went 20-12 in 1990. And none have won the Cy Young Award since Dwight Gooden's remarkable 1985 season. With a victory in Thursday's home finale, Dickey would lock up the former honor, which would surely bolster his quest for the latter.
"Obviously, there's something that looks pretty about that number, so I'm not going to pretend that it's not nice," said Dickey, who would join Washington's Gio Gonzalez as the only 20-game winners in baseball this season. "But . . . my whole mentality is how can I be consistent. And so I'm going to go out there and try to put up a quality start just like I always do, and hopefully it will equal a win."
Dickey admits that the achievement would be bittersweet in light of the team's second-half collapse. Yet Mets manager Terry Collins sees value in helping the pitcher reach the mark, as evidenced by his willingness to cater to Dickey's chase for the Cy Young Award.
"What we're trying to do is give him the best chance to have a very, very positive end to a tremendous season," said Collins, who called Dickey's pursuit "a special thing."
He permitted Dickey's request to have his start bumped up a day so he could go for his 20th win at home. The switch also spared Dickey from pitching Friday night night at Turner Field, where he has been knocked around this season. In recent weeks, Collins has also altered his starting lineup to favor his pitcher. Even against righthanded pitching, Collins has started Jason Bay to keep his glove in leftfield.
The various maneuvers have produced their intended effect. Dickey has won four of his last six decisions, putting him in the position he envisioned, pitching to make history at Citi Field.
"I really hope for that," Dickey said. "That's one of the reasons I moved my start in the first place, to share a milestone such as that with the fans here. So, it would mean quite something. It may mean the most of things for me in this moment."