ST. LOUIS -- Forecasts always are particularly important for R.A. Dickey because his knuckleball fares poorly when the weather is not fair. There was concern Wednesday morning, when it was pouring here. Even after the rain stopped, it was not perfect. Dickey's inner meteorological sense produced this reading: "2,000 percent humidity."
Still, he muddled through it. He again showed his gift for perseverance in the Mets' 6-2 victory over the Cardinals, becoming the first major leaguer this season to win 18 games -- and the first Met to do so since 1990. So it was appropriate to peek at the extended outlook and see a 20-win season.
"I hope for that, for sure. I hope to win beyond 20," Dickey said. "I don't know how many starts I have left, maybe five. Why not try to win them all? As far as getting to that plateau, it would be really satisfying, I think. You'd have to ask me after it happens. But right now, I've got some work to do before I face Washington in six days, so that's where my mind will be.
"Because of my story, my journey, I appreciate every win," he said. "Every win is hard to get here at the big-league level. Those guys on the other side of the diamond are very good. My focus and my acumen will be devoted to No. 19."
Twenty is a magic number for pitchers, especially now that pitch counts and innings limits cut down their opportunities. It always has been and still is a gold standard. For Dickey (18-4), it would be another stunning plot twist in a narrative filled with pain, personal and professional failure, demotion, faith and completely starting over as a knuckleballer.
There is enough to fill a novel, if it weren't already a best-selling nonfiction book ("Wherever I Wind Up," which Dickey co-wrote with Wayne Coffey). Twenty seemed more tangible after No. 18, a level unreached by a Met since Frank Viola and Dwight Gooden had 20 and 19, respectively, in 1990.
Ike Davis, whose three-run home run in the fifth inning gave the Mets a 5-1 lead, said, "Obviously, we want to win every game. But right now, R.A. has a chance to do something special and you really want to get behind and help a guy like that."
Davis said that Dickey's performances this year have taken pressure off the hitters. On Wednesday, it was just the opposite because the knuckleball did not soar so well through the humid air. Catcher Josh Thole said the struggle was another compliment to the Mets ace: "To identify that and put his ego away and say, 'I'm going to have to use my sinker now . . . ' That's what he did."
It helped that Justin Turner had two doubles and Daniel Murphy hit three singles. Once Davis drove a pitch from Adam Wainwright (13-12) into the rightfield seats -- his 26th home run of the season and his seventh three-run shot -- Dickey felt about 2,000 percent better. "It freed me up to not have to be so fine," the pitcher said, having allowed two runs on eight hits (including a homer by Wainwright) in 6 2/3 innings.
Predicting who will win the National League Cy Young is a much less exact science than predicting the weather. But the Mets like their guy, and they love his chances to win two more. "The whole story of what he has had to go through to get where he's at today is truly one of the great stories in sports," Terry Collins said.
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