NEW YORK (AP) _ R.A. Dickey became the first knuckleballer to
win 20 games in more than three decades, tying his career-high with
13 strikeouts and leading the New York Mets over Pittsburgh Pirates
6-5 Thursday behind David Wright’s tiebreaking, three-run homer.

A 37-year-old knuckleballer who had never won more than 11 games
in any previous season, Dickey (20-6) overcame an outstanding,
climbing catch by Travis Snider more than 2 feet above the
right-field wall that robbed Mike Baxter of a tying home run in the
second inning.

Dickey, throwing his hard knuckler at about 78 mph, fell behind
2-0 and 3-1. Former Texas teammate Rod Barajas doubled in a run and
homered, but the Mets clawed back in their final home game of the
season and took a 6-3 lead on Wright’s homer in the fifth and held
on in a nervous ninth.

Dickey allowed three runs and eight hits in 7 2-3 innings,
walking two and reaching double digits in strikeouts for the
seventh time this season. He leads the NL with 222 Ks.
He is the first 20-game winner for the pitching-proud Mets since
Frank Viola in 1990 and the first knuckleballer to accomplish the
feat since Houston’s Joe Niekro in 1980, according to STATS LLC.
Viola also reached 20 with a win over the Pirates.

The crowd of 31,506 _ the Mets offered $10 tickets to boost
attendance for the matinee _ gave Dickey large ovations when he
walked to the bullpen to warm up, when he came back to the dugout,
when he took the mound and each time he batted. When he came out
after walking Snider in the eighth, he tipped his cap to the
excited fans, exchanged high-fives with teammates in the dugout and
took a seat on the bench.

Jon Rauch, pitching on his 34th birthday, followed Dickey and
allowed Alex Presley’s two-run homer in the ninth. Bobby Parnell
retired Josh Harrison on a groundout and Jose Tabata on a flyout
for his fifth save.

Pittsburgh, which led the NL Central at the All-Star break, lost
for the 20th time in 26 games and dropped to 76-80. The Pirates
must win five of their last six games _ against Cincinnati and
Atlanta _ to avoid their 20th consecutive losing season.
Pittsburgh’s streak of futility already is a record for North
American major professional leagues.

Snider gave the Pirates a memory with one of the best defensive
plays of the season. He dug his cleats into the chain-link fence,
hooked his left arm on top of the wall in front of the Mo’s Zone
seats, hoisted himself up and grabbed Baxter’s drive in the webbing
of the glove on his right hand well about the 8-foot wall.

NL batting leader Andrew McCutchen left the game in the seventh
inning with discomfort in left knee after attempting to make a
diving catch. McCutchen trapped a soft fly into short center by
Daniel Murphy and threw to second to force Ruben Tejada, who began
the play on first base and wasn’t sure whether the ball was caught.
The Pirates star then was taken out of the game.

McCutchen was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, dropping his average
to .332, just ahead of San Francisco’s Buster Posey (.331) and St.
Louis’ Yadier Molina (.320).

Kevin Correia (11-11) gave up six runs and seven hits. Given a
3-1 lead, he allowed Scott Hairston’s RBI single in the fourth and
Murphy’s tying single in the fifth before Wright hit an
opposite-field drive to right for his 21st home run this season.

Barajas hit an opposite-field RBI double that hopped the
right-field wall in the second, and Jordy Mercer following with a
run-scoring infield single to Wright at third.

Ike Davis led off the bottom half with his 31st homer. Barajas
boosted the lead to 3-1 when he homered on an 0-2 pitch in the
fourth, a drive over the old 16-foot wall in left.

NOTES: The Mets drew 2,242,803 to Citi Field this year, down
from 3.15 million in 2009, 2.56 million in 2010 and 2.35 million
last year. This is the team’s lowest home attendance since 2.19
million at Shea Stadium in 2003. … Mets broadcaster Keith
Hernandez shaved off his mustache before the game in a charity
fundraiser. … Pirates 2B Neil Walker missed his third straight
game because of a lower back injury.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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