NEW YORK -- For all the recent emphasis around baseball on devaluing pitcher wins, they remain -- rightly or wrongly -- a criterion that hangs heavily over Cy Young Award voting. Plain and simple, victories give pitchers a better chance to take home hardware.
So despite R.A. Dickey's seven strong innings Monday against the Rockies, the lack of a victory hurt his cause. The Mets mustered next to nothing against Colorado's 30th-ranked pitching staff in a 3-1 loss at Citi Field, and their defensive missteps in the eighth inning eventually cost them the game.
"It's much more frustrating from a team standpoint," Dickey said, alluding to the Mets' 11 losses in their last 16 contests. "We really want to try to turn the corner here, and we're having some difficulty doing that."
Moments after Mets manager Terry Collins lifted Dickey for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning, Josh Edgin opened the eighth by allowing an infield hit to Jonathan Herrera and compounding it with a throwing error. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third base, before Herrera scored on catcher Kelly Shoppach's passed ball.
The Mets plated an early run to support Dickey when Daniel Murphy singled home David Wright with two outs in the first. But despite driving up Rockies starter Alex White's pitch count and forcing him from the game after four, the Mets could do nothing in the middle innings against the league's bottom-ranked pitching staff.
The Rockies, meanwhile, reclaimed their run when Tyler Colvin blasted an 81-mph knuckleball over the fence in right field in the fifth inning. It was the only run that Dickey allowed in seven innings, but it stuck him with a no-decision.
"I made two mistakes tonight, really," Dickey said, also bemoaning a seventh-inning walk to Dexter Fowler. "It wasn't a terrible knuckleball. It just went right into his swing plane."
After going 13-1 in his first 19 starts, Dickey is now 2-3 in his last seven. But his ERA has remained steady over that span, actually dropping one one-hundredth of a point from 2.83 to 2.82.
The Mets rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning, loading the bases with two outs. But Jordany Valdespin was unable to beat out a slow ground ball to end the inning, sliding into first base as the pitcher covered. Though Valdespin jumped up in anger after the play and had to be restrained by manager Terry Collins and first-base coach Tom Goodwin, replays indicated that he was indeed out.
"In that moment, you're not thinking anything," Valdespin said. "All you want to do is go in safe."
"What could have been a fairly easy play after Colvin makes the terrific back-handed play ended up being a bang-banger, just because of a little bit of a late break," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said, explaining why Matt Belisle was slow to cover the bag. "After he finished his pitch, he was a little bit off-balance and had to regroup and get over there to cover, and the effort that he gave was what was necessary to get the guy out."
Collins said he was most frustrated by Valdespin's decision to slide, calling it a lesson that players are supposed to learn in Spring Training.
"You don't see track runners diving over the finish line," Collins said. "There's a reason why they don't do it."
In a different context, Dickey needs to avoid sliding toward the finish line, as well. Succeeding down the stretch could mean the difference between a very good season and a Cy Young Award campaign for a pitcher who ranks first in the National League in strikeouts, fourth in ERA and third in wins -- the one category he was leading for most of the season.
Despite the rise of sabermetrics and the resultant devaluation of pitcher wins, they remain a respected stat amongst players, coaches and baseball writers. The latter group is responsible for Cy Young Award voting and has shown a progressive tilt in recent years, most famously awarding Felix Hernandez the 2010 American League Cy Young Award despite a 13-12 record.
But wins still help. And after pacing the Majors in that category for most of the early season, Dickey and his teammates have allowed several of the league's other top pitchers to catch up to him.
"I want to get to 16 wins," Dickey said, narrowing his sights on the immediate future. "However I can do that is what I'm interested in."