MILWAUKEE -- Perhaps it's nothing more than sheer coincidence, the result of fortunate timing and dumb luck. But the Mets have offered evidence for the existence of an R.A. Dickey Effect.
Consider Sunday's 3-0 loss to the Brewers in which the offense wilted against Wily Peralta, a 23-year-old rookie making only his third big-league start. None of the top six hitters in the Mets' lineup reached base against Peralta, who tossed eight shutout innings.
His performance nullified a solid effort by Mets starter Chris Young (4-8), who allowed Ryan Braun's 39th and 40th homers and Aramis Ramirez's 24th. Young took the loss despite yielding three runs in 6 2/3 innings -- a quality start.
"Two hits aren't going to get you very far," Mets manager Terry Collins said. Yet that same offense has delivered for Dickey, who will resume his chase for the Cy Young Award when he starts Monday night at home against the Phillies.
Though it has tapered off recently, Dickey has benefited from the best run support of any pitcher in the Mets' starting rotation. His average of 4.76 runs ranks eighth in the National League.
Only twice this season has he taken the loss while delivering a quality start. He has even avoided being hurt by his team's shaky bullpen. For all of their problems, Mets relievers have yet to blow a game in which Dickey departed in line for the win. "I don't know if that's coincidence or following a knuckleballer as a reliever," Dickey said. "And the run support, sometimes that's just the nature of the day that you pitch. But I'm certainly thankful for it and gracious for it."
Of course, he has done his part on the way to 18 wins, second most in the NL. His 2.68 ERA is the lowest in the league, giving him a chance to win even when his offense sputters. He leads the league with five complete games, which helps guard him from a pen that has been prone to meltdowns. But Collins said there is "no question" that the team has played up for him.
"When R.A. pitches, they know they're going to be in the game," Collins said. "They're going to have a shot."
With plenty of help from his friends, Dickey has maximized his win total, which could play an important role in deciding a tight Cy Young race. Collins believes that a 20-win season might be a prerequisite for Dickey to become the team's first Cy Young winner since Dwight Gooden in 1985.
Could Dickey win the award without reaching 20 victories? "I think it would probably be hard," Collins said. "But he's got enough left where hopefully we can give him some run support to get him to 20, for sure. Because I know he'll keep us in the game. That's the one thing we know. You look up in the seventh inning and we're going to be in there."
Rather than predict how many victories he'll need to win the award, Dickey said he's taking a simpler approach. "If I don't get to 22, I'll be disappointed," he said. "I've got four starts left. Of course I want to win every start that I pitch."
Notes & quotes: With Jeurys Familia excelling in the bullpen, the Mets scrubbed his scheduled start Wednesday to keep him in a relief role. "We kind of like what we're seeing," Collins said. Either Collin McHugh or Jeremy Hefner will make the start for Familia, who has allowed two runs in five innings in his first four big-league appearances . . . As planned, the Mets' traveling party returned to New York on Sunday night wearing various caps and shirts representing the city's first responders.