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Facing "The Freak"

New York Mets' starting pitcher R.A. Dickey delivers

New York Mets' starting pitcher R.A. Dickey delivers a pitch in the first inning of the Mets' baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field in New York. (July 9, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

If I asked 100 people before the season started, "Who will have a better ERA at the All Star break: R.A. Dickey (pictured) or Tim Lincecum?" would all 100 pick Lincecum? Probably. Would any of the 100 know who Dickey was? Debatable.

Well, Dickey is at 2.77, while Lincecum stands at 3.16 as they head into tonight's matchup at AT&T Park in San Francisco (first pitch is at 10:15 p.m.). So joke's on us, I guess.

Lincecum is 24th in the majors in the category (Dickey doesn't have enough innings to qualify), but hasn't been as dominating this year as he had been in during his Cy Young seasons of 2008 and 2009. His 1.28 WHIP matches his career high from his rookie year, and the eight home runs allowed is just four off his career high.

The 26-year old dude with the funky motion (hence "The Freak" nickname) and flowing locks has been striking less people out than usual (131, though that's still tops in the NL) and walking more (48, tied for fifth most in the NL), and has sort of gone under the radar in this Year of the Pitcher in the National League. That being said, don't be surprised if he rocks the Mets, who have struggled to an 18-24 road record, to sleep tonight.

However, Lincecum is just 0-1 with a 5.04 ERA against the Mets in four career starts (they are one of two NL teams — Cincinnati is the other — Linceum has never defeated).

"This kid, he's special and you're going to have bumps in the road and it's something that he's had to overcome," manager Bruce Bochy said about Lincecum. "Timmy looks, now, like he's on a mission to get back on track."

Here are the Mets' career numbers off Lincecum, led by Jose Reyes, who if 4-for-9 off the righty. Also, Ike Davis has two hits, a walk and RBI in three plate appearances off him.

As for Dickey, it's been a dream season. Six of the 35-year old's 28 career victories have come this season and the knuckleballer's never finished a year with an ERA less than 4.62.

Every time he has a bad start and think he's regressing back to the mean, he busts out a great start, as he did with a seven-inning, no earned run performance July 3 in Washington when he outdueled phenom Stephen Strasburg, 6-5.

Dickey is 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA on the road this season. He and the Mets will have to get things going on the West Coast, as they begin an 11-game trip through San Francisco, Arizona and Los Angeles before coming home for an off day on July 26.

This is Dickey's first career start against San Francisco. Here are the Giants' limited career numbers off Dickey when they were with different clubs.

The pitching matchups for the next three days in San Francisco are as follows:

Friday (10:35 p.m.) -- Jon Niese (6-3, 3.61) vs. LHP Barry Zito (7-4, 3.76)

Saturday (9:05 p.m.) -- Mike Pelfrey (10-4, 3.58) vs. RHP Matt Cain (6-8, 3.34)

Sunday (4:05 p.m.) -- Johan Santana (7-5, 2.98) vs. LHP Jonathan Sanchez (7-6, 3.47)

The Mets are 9-6 against the NL West this season (including 2-1 against the Giants), but only six of those games were on the road (they were 2-4 in those).

The Giants are in fourth place in the NL West at 47-41, four games behind San Diego.

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