NEW YORK (AP) — R.A. Dickey's first pitch of the game was elusive, fooling catcher Mike Nickeas and skittering to the backstop. Phillies star Jimmy Rollins had trouble with the next knuckleball, falling to one knee after a hard swing and miss.
Dickey did well enough for seven innings. Too bad for him, Cliff Lee was even better.
Lee struck out 10 and Philadelphia regained its winning touch, denting Dickey's chances at the NL Cy Young Award and beating the New York Mets 3-1 Monday night.
"The way that he has been throwing the last month, month and a half, you knew it was probably going to be a tight game," Dickey said. "The margin of error decreases when he's pitching."
Jimmy Rollins homered with the help of video replay and Domonic Brown also hit a solo shot off Dickey (18-6). The Phillies pulled within 3½ games of idle St. Louis for the second NL wild-card spot, though other teams are also in their path.
The Mets have dropped nine of 10 overall, and fell to 4-22 at home since the All-Star break.
Lee, who earned his first victory of the season July 4 at Citi Field, became the latest pitcher to shut down the Mets in their own ballpark. New York has scored three runs or fewer in a team-record 14 straight home games.
A bit much for Dickey to overcome.
"You feel for him, because all he's done is given himself a chance to win a baseball game," Mets manager Terry 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's allowed us an opportunity to win, and hopefully it doesn't get back to bite him too bad."
Dickey missed a chance to tie Washington's Gio Gonzalez for the major league lead in wins, and has lost two decisions in a row for the first time this year. Dickey projects to get three more starts this season.
The right-hander allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out eight — he has 205 this year, one behind NL leader Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers — and lowered his ERA a tad to a league-best 2.67.
While Dickey may not be focused on the other Cy Young contenders, he's certainly aware of their performances. As a kid, he scanned the newspaper for the results. Now, he has a personal stake in them.
"From early on in my life, I've always been a fan of boxscores. Growing up, I remember sitting at the table with my grandfather, looking at the Tennessean and tracking Shawon Dunston as he tried to hit .300 for a season. So yes, I do look at the boxscores.
"I don't know if I pay particular attention to who's doing what and how that affects me. That does not change the way that I go about my business, so it doesn't do me any good to wish bad for them or good for them or whatever else. I just need to take care of me, and that's what I've tried to do consistently," he said.
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