MIAMI -- R.A. Dickey pitched well enough to win the Cy Young Award. And it almost didn't happen.
After his final start of the season Tuesday night against the Marlins, Dickey revealed that he pitched virtually the entire season with an abdominal tear that will require offseason surgery. With the Mets surging in the first half, and his storybook season on the line, Dickey prayed with his wife that the injury wouldn't cut his year short.
Those prayers were answered.
Not until the third inning of Tuesday night's 4-3 loss in 11 innings to the Marlins did Dickey feel "more significant pain" in his abdomen. At times, he admitted having a hard time catching his breath. Yet he pitched through it -- allowing three runs in six innings -- before disclosing the injury for the first time.
"I guess the timing is fortuitous," said Dickey, who will undergo surgery on Oct. 18. "The significant pain I'm feeling now I haven't felt before."
Dickey shortened bullpen sessions between starts and underwent treatment with trainers -- all in hopes that he could keep pitching.
"It's like white noise kind of," he said. "It's like hearing a crowd and not letting it distract you from what's going on. Same kind of concept. You know it's there but it's not enough to prohibit you from doing it until tonight."
It's yet another factor for voters to consider before they cast their Cy Young ballots. Though he didn't factor in the decision against the Marlins, the 37-year-old presented a strong case, posting a 20-6 record. Dickey has logged a league-best 233 2/3 innings with 230 strikeouts, the most by a Mets pitcher since David Cone's 241 in 1991. He is second in wins behind Gio Gonzalez (21) and his 2.73 ERA is second to Clayton Kershaw (2.58), who is scheduled to pitch Wednesday.
"He's a tremendous competitor, he always has been," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You don't go through his career and his career path and get to where he is without being a tough guy and being able to compete."
The Cy Young Award, never won by a knuckleballer, would help to create a fitting end for Dickey's stirring comeback story. He could join a list that includes Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver, the Hall of Famer and three-time Cy Young Award winner for the Mets.
"I feel like I've turned in a pretty healthy body of work," Dickey said.
Other knuckleballers have come close. In 1971, Wilbur Wood went 22-13 with a 1.91 ERA in 334 innings. But he got just one first-place vote for the Cy Young, behind the Tigers' Mickey Lolich and the eventual winner, Vida Blue of the A's.
But Dickey may have a breakthrough on behalf of his fellow knuckleballers.
Said Collins: "He was absolutely brilliant all season long."