R.A. Dickey will take the mound today at Citi Field for the first time since winning his 20th game of the 2012 season. Dickey did pitch against the Mets in 2015, as the Blue Jays beat his current Atlanta teammate Bartolo Colon.
Dickey joined the Mets in 2010 and became the second pitcher in team history to win six of his first seven starts.
Congratulate yourself if you knew Jorge Sosa was the first. Dickey finished that season 11-9 and then went 8-13 in 2011. Then came the storybook 2012 season in which he won 20 games and beat Clayton Kershaw for the Cy Young award.
“An unexpected surprise,” Gary Cohen called Dickey during Wednesday’s SNY telecast. Cohen added that Dickey was “a breath of fresh air” at a time when the Mets were consistently losing.
It’s interesting to see former Met pitchers return to Queens as opponents. Notables like Gary Gentry, Jon Matlack, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and Frank Viola (the last 20-game winner before Dickey) never pitched against the Mets.
Tom Seaver famously had the Flushing faithful on his side when he beat Jerry Koosman and the Mets after being traded to the Reds in 1977. It was Koosman starting for the Phillies on April 29, 1984 when the Mets held “Strawberry Sunday” to honor Darryl Strawberry’s 1983 Rookie of the Year campaign.
Dwight Gooden’s career looked like it was over when the Devil Rays cut him in May 2000, but George Steinbrenner signed him and his first start in his second go-around with the Yankees came at Shea. Gooden pitched five innings and got the win on July 8, 2000 but most headlines the next day focused on Roger Clemens beaning Mike Piazza in the nightcap at Yankee Stadium.
David Cone also pitched at Shea in 2000, but it came in Game 4 of the World Series. With the Yankees up 3-2 in the fifth inning, Cone replaced Denny Neagle and got Mike Piazza to pop up to second. Cone’s only start against the Mets at Shea came with the Red Sox in July 2001.
Al Leiter pitched for the Mets from 1998-2004 and then returned to Queens as a Marlin on April 16, 2005 when he opposed Pedro Martinez in Pedro’s first start at Shea as a Met.
Coincidentally, Dickey will be matched up against Noah Syndergaard, the pitcher the Mets got back for Dickey.
This sets up a rare duel of a Met facing the pitcher he was traded for. In 1998, the Mets acquired Hideo Nomo in a deal that sent Subway Series legend Dave Mlicki to the Dodgers. A few months later, Mlicki beat Nomo in an 8-5 game at Shea. A 2002 game pitted Jeff D’Amico against Glendon Rusch several months after they were traded for each other, with Milwaukee winning 6-2.
If the 42-year-old knuckleballer wins in his return to Citi Field, he’ll have to out pitch his 24-year-old flamethrowing counterpart.