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R.A. Dickey Goes For 20

It can't be easy to be the Mets or the Pirates right now.

Both teams are out of playoff contention with a week remaining in the season.

But amidst a season of diluted expectations, Thursday's game between the two clubs could be a special day.

The Mets have had few reasons to celebrate since free falling in the standings at the start of the second half of the season, but the development of R.A. Dickey from dependable starter into potential Cy Young winner has been one of the few bright spots. The fluttering knuckleball that Dickey has somehow learned to control has emerged into one of baseball's deadliest pitches. So as the Mets wrap up their 11-game homestand and play their final game of the season in front of their home fans, Dickey will be pitching against Pittsburgh for his 20th win of the season.

"Obviously, there's something that looks pretty about that number," Dickey said.

The number is so pretty that Mets manager Terry Collins decided to adjust his rotation at Dickey's request so his right-handed hurler could try and win his 20th game of the season at Citi Field. Pitching with the support of his hometown fans means something to Dickey, who has gone through his fair share of struggles in the Major Leagues and now has an opportunity to be the first Met 20-game winner since Frank Viola accomplished it in 1990 for just the fifth time in franchise history.

Collins has made it clear he's willing to do whatever necessary to make Dickey the sixth Mets pitcher to ever make it to 20 wins, even if slotting people around the knuckleballer might have a negative connotation. After starting the year 46-40, the Mets have gone 25-46 since. Dickey's accomplishment would sit right next to Johan Santana's no-hitter as tremendous consolations in a down year in Flushing.

"In R.A.'s case, right now this is a special thing," Collins said. "I hope most of the guys understand what it means and what it is, there's always going to be some who might take it the wrong way, but you can't please everybody. What we're trying to do is give him the best chance to have a very, very positive end to a tremendous season."

Pirates starter Kevin Correia will be the man in charge of raining on Dickey's parade. He's been sharp so far this month, posting a 2.42 ERA in four starts since the start of September. While he hasn't yet faced the Mets this season, Correia has had good success against them over his career, mounting a 3.23 ERA over 12 games (6 starts).

But while Correia aims to close out the month strong, all eyes will be on Dickey, who will be aiming to make Mets history on Thursday.

Pirates: Staff breaks franchise record for K's
• With his eighth-inning strikeout of Ike Davis on Tuesday, Jason Grilli made history. Davis' whiff notched the 1,125th strikeout recorded by the Pirates this season, breaking the franchise record set by the 1969 team.

Pittsburgh relievers through Tuesday accounted for an amazing 437 of this year's strikeouts, equaling 39 percent of the total number. To put that into perspective, the '69 team only got 262 strikeouts from its bullpen, or 23 percent of the 1,125 it registered.

Grilli has accounted for 85 of the strikeouts while Joel Hanrahan's 67 are in second place out of Pirates relievers. Both those totals are higher than any individual member of the '69 team.

Mets: Carson strains left triceps tendon
• Mets left-handed reliever Robert Carson appeared to be earning himself a spot on next year's Opening Day roster with the way he was throwing this September when he felt a pull during Tuesday's game. Carson initially feared the worst, thinking he would have to shut down throwing for a long period of time.

He was relieved to learn that an MRI taken on Wednesday game up negative, and it appears Carson strained his left triceps tendon, which will leave him day to day. Despite the good news, Carson will likely be shut down for the remaining seven games of the season.

Worth noting
• There's a 70 percent chance Mets closer Frank Francisco will be shut down for the remainder of the year with right elbow tendentious, according to Collins.

• Pittsburgh had scored 20 runs in its previous three games before getting shut out on Wednesday night.

• David Wright hit his 20th home run of the season on Tuesday night. He is now locked in a tie with Mike Piazza for the second-most seasons (six) with 20 or more homers in Mets history.

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