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Dickey fans eight over seven solid frames

While the Mets may not have achieved all they wanted as a team this season, Saturday starter R.A. Dickey has turned in one of the biggest success stories and surprises of the 2012 campaign.

Dickey (18-6, 2.67 ERA) will get the call against the Marlins in Saturday afternoon's tilt, as the knuckleballer looks to build on his career year. His 18 wins are already the most for any Mets pitcher since 1990, when Dwight Gooden recorded 19 and Frank Viola notched 20.

Including Saturday, Dickey has three more scheduled starts as he tries to turn in just the ninth 20-win season in franchise history. Working in his favor is the fact that two of his final three starts will come against the Marlins, whom Dickey is 7-0 against with a miniscule 0.71 ERA over the past two seasons.

Dickey, originally slated as Sunday's starter, was bumped up a day to Saturday so that he could come back and pitch in the Mets' home finale next Thursday instead of taking the hill in Atlanta the following day. Though moved up a day, Dickey will still be pitching on regular rest due to Tuesday's rainout.

"He wanted to pitch at home one more time," manager Terry Collins said, noting that Dickey and pitching coach Dan Warthen devised the plan. "I thought it was a great idea, so we decided to do it that way."

Dickey will be looking to get back in the win column after dropping each of his last two outings -- both of which were quality starts. The consecutive losses marked the first time this year he's lost back-to-back decisions, let alone back-to-back starts. On the bright side, the Cy Young Award hopeful has not gone three straight starts without at least one win at any point this season.

The Mets, however, have struggled with run support at times, tallying just eight combined runs in Dickey's five losses since the All-Star break.

"You feel for him because all he's done is give himself a chance to win a baseball game," Collins said. "We'll go back at the end of the year and recount the number of games where he didn't get a decision, or he allowed us to have an opportunity to win, and hopefully it doesn't get back to bite him too bad [in the Cy Young voting]."

The Marlins will counter with Mark Buehrle, who has some individual work of his own left to do this season.

Buehrle entered the year with one of the more impressive current durability streaks in the league -- 11 straight seasons of at least 30 starts, 200-plus innings pitched and double-digit victories. The veteran southpaw, who already has 13 wins, will come one step closer to extending that streak Saturday when he makes his 30th start. He needs just 11 2/3 innings over his final few starts to reach the 200-inning plateau.

As for the battle to stay out of the National League East cellar, Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen said trailing the Mets by 1 1/2 games doesn't matter much at this point.

"Do you wanna finish last or second to last?" Guillen said. "I don't get paid to do that. I get paid to finish first. After that, I'm a loser no matter what."

Marlins: Stanton not likely to return Saturday
Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton missed his fourth straight game Friday night and is unlikely to play Saturday as he continues to nurse a sore left intercostal muscle.

Stanton said he initially tweaked his left side during a swing last Saturday and then felt additional discomfort when he last played on Sunday. Guillen doesn't expect to have the slugger back in his lineup until Sunday at the earliest.

"He's not feeling good enough out there," Guillen said. "He couldn't do a few things we asked him to do, so we'll see how he feels for Sunday."

Mets: Collins commends team's effort
Immediately following Thursday's 16-1 loss, Collins lit into his team for what he thought at the time was a perceived lack of effort. The Mets' skipper was singing a much different tune come Friday.

"I'm very proud of this team, the way they played all year," said Collins, who admitted his emotions got the best of him Thursday night. "The one thing I will never, ever talk about is their effort. Their effort has always been there. ... The issue has been, as a manager, you sit here and you try to fix it, you try and figure out how to fix it. And you pull out all of your stops. No matter what you've done in the past, you try and find an answer, and when you don't have any answers, it's frustrating."

The Mets are just 21-43 since the All-Star break and had lost nine straight home games prior to Friday's 7-3 victory.

Worth noting
• Former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes is just 2-for-19 with one walk in his career against Dickey. The .105 average is Reyes' lowest against any active pitcher who he's faced at least 20 times.

• Aside from the White Sox -- whom Buehrle has never faced -- the Mets are the only team he has not recorded at least one victory against.

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