The best pitcher in baseball is ... R.A. Dickey?

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The best pitcher in baseball is ... R.A. Dickey?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- R.A. Dickey saved his career by cultivating a knuckleball. Now he's using it to rewrite the Mets' record book as baseball's most dominant pitcher. Dickey became the first major leaguer in 24 years to throw consecutive one-hitters and Ike Davis hit a grand slam to lead New York past the Baltimore Orioles 5-0 on Monday night. Coming off a one-hit gem at Tampa Bay last Wednesday, Dickey struck out a career-high 13 and allowed only Wilson Betemit's clean single in the fifth inning. He has not permitted an earned run in 42 2-3 innings, the second-longest stretch in club history behind Dwight Gooden's streak of 49 innings in 1985. "I don't really feel much more confident than I did the last couple years," Dickey said. "I've always felt like I have a pretty good knuckleball. I worked hard to do that." The previous pitcher to spin consecutive one-hitters was Dave Stieb for Toronto in September 1988, according to STATS LLC. The Mets said the last to match the feat -- or top it -- in the National League was Jim Tobin with the 1944 Boston Braves, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. Tobin tossed a one-hitter followed by a no-hitter. The 37-year-old Dickey (11-1) walked two and became the first 11-game winner in the majors, befuddling Baltimore with knucklers that ranged from 66-81 mph in a game that took just 2 hours, 7 minutes. He fanned the final two hitters and four of his last five, topping his previous career best of 12 strikeouts set Wednesday against the Rays. "Yeah, it's surreal," Dickey said. "You almost get emotional out there, especially that last hitter. You hear everybody, like one big heartbeat beating. That's the best way I could explain it." A longtime journeyman before joining the Mets in 2010, Dickey has won a career-best nine straight decisions and six consecutive starts. He is tied for the major league lead in ERA (2.00), strikeouts (103) and complete games (three). It was his fourth game this season with double-digit strikeouts, most in the majors, and the fifth of his career. The right-hander has an incredible 71 strikeouts and six walks in his last seven starts. "I'm going to leave it to you guys to explain it. I'm just going to try to be in the moment with it," said Dickey, a deeply religious deep thinker. Betemit's two-out single in the fifth ended Dickey's franchise-record streak of 13 hitless innings. "Do I have a chance to appeal that base hit? Did anybody dive for that ball? I got a bad view," Mets manager Terry Collins said, drawing laughs. The only blemish Wednesday night was B.J. Upton's infield single with two outs in the first, a high bouncer that third baseman David Wright tried to field with his bare hand. After the game, the Mets appealed the official scoring decision to Major League Baseball, asking the commissioner's office to review the play and consider whether Wright should be charged with an error, thus giving Dickey the team's second no-hitter this month. The appeal was denied and Dickey said he was relieved, explaining that there would have been "an asterisk by it bigger than the no-hitter itself." The only active knuckleballer in the majors, Dickey has a 1.21 ERA and 88 strikeouts during his nine-game winning streak. It was his fifth career shutout and second this season, both in June. Pretty amazing for a guy who relies on a seemingly uncontrollable pitch that he throws harder and with more precision than just about anyone else who's made a living on it. "He has no wild pitches this year. That's impressive," Baltimore slugger Adam Jones said. "He's in a groove." The Mets said Dickey has made five straight starts with no earned runs allowed and at least eight strikeouts, the longest streak in major league history, according to Elias. One of the people Dickey can thank for his incredible success story is Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was instrumental in persuading the pitcher to remake himself into a knuckleballer when both were with the Texas Rangers. "He had every attribute of a major league pitcher except the arm," Showalter said, his thoughts then turning to the fact that his team was about to face Dickey. "I wish it hadn't happened." After the game, Dickey said he would be remiss not to thank Showalter. "You know, and this is a tip of the hat to him: It was fairly poetic, I thought. The last game he saw me pitch live I gave up six home runs and tied a modern-day major league record," Dickey said. "It's really incredible." A member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team and a first-round draft pick out of Tennessee, Dickey was devastated when the Rangers reduced their signing-bonus offer from more than 800,000 to 75,000 after they discovered during a physical that he was missing a major ligament in his pitching elbow. Undeterred, perseverance got him to the big leagues anyway. When he failed, the knuckleball brought him back. Committed to his craft, Dickey enlisted the help of former knuckleballers like Charlie Hough and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. Along the way, teammates and fans were introduced to his unique personality: A voracious reader, Dickey climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in January to raise money for charity and released an autobiography that revealed suicidal thoughts and the sexual abuse he endured as a child. He's even featured in a documentary film called "Knuckleball." Dickey made his mark at the plate on Monday, too, sparking New York's big rally with a leadoff single in the sixth against Jake Arrieta (3-9). Jordany Valdespin doubled with one out and Dickey had to scramble back to third after he initially broke the wrong way on Wright's lineout to shortstop. The pitcher barely beat the throw with a headfirst dive, which turned out to be a crucial play. Lucas Duda walked and Davis hit the next pitch just to the left of center for his seventh home run of the year and first career slam. Valdespin tripled off Kevin Gregg in the eighth and scored on Wright's single. The Mets, who lead the NL with seven shutouts, had lost three straight and nine of 13.

Evans: Giants still in 'search mode' for closer, but 'it's progressing'

Evans: Giants still in 'search mode' for closer, but 'it's progressing'

As the Winter Meetings get set to begin in Washington, D.C. on Monday, the Giants still haven't crossed off the top item on their offseason wish list.

The closer role remains vacant.

Names like Mark Melancon and Greg Holland have been linked to the Giants over the last few weeks, but nothing has materialized.

On Friday, GM Bobby Evans provided an update while speaking with ESPN's Buster Olney.

"There's been a lot of signings and a number of trades. In many ways, more done prior to the winter meetings than in the last couple of years. We still are in process, relative to trade options, relative to free agent options, to be clear who's pitching the ninth inning for us. So we feel we have the makings of a good bullpen, we just need to be clear who's pitching the ninth. And we'd like to solidify that through the trade market or free agent market. It's progressing. We're a month into this process, so we have a lot more information. But ultimately, until we have a closer, we're still in the search mode.

There's a nice balance between both. It's just that, they both have costs. Relative to a trade, sometimes you're giving up, in some cases, one or more of your top prospects and other prospects below that. In the way of free agency, it's obviously an expenditure for a certain number of years that is elavated more on the supply and demand side. That said, there are some middle tier late inning options as well that may not be as demanding as some of the bigger names. Again, it's a balance of options trying to measure all three."

McCoy, Bills run game to 'throw the gauntlet' at Raiders defensive front

McCoy, Bills run game to 'throw the gauntlet' at Raiders defensive front

ALAMEDA – Rex Ryan coined the phrase “ground and pound” when he was head coach of the New York Jets, reflected his desire to run often and run vertically with power. He’s with a different team, but the term traveled with him.

Ryan like to control on the ground. 

It’s no surprise Ryan’s Buffalo Bills are the NFL’s best rushing attack. They average 157.4 yards per game on the ground, a massive total led by lead back LeSean McCoy and speedy quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Bills average 5.3 yards per carry and run a ton, nearly 30 times per game. That’s second only to Dallas. And, to top it all off, they’ve only fumbled twice running the football.

The numbers are awesome, but the ground and pound may not fit. The Buffalo Bills do it all running the football, meaning the Raiders defense must be ready for anything during Sunday’s game at Oakland Coliseum.

“They really do everything that I can think of that I’ve ever seen in the run game, they have it one form or fashion,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “They basically throw the gauntlet at you. They’ve got a formation thing and they see how you want to play it. Then they’ve got a series of plays they get to and they’re very good at it. No. 1 in the league, and that’s saying something.”

They have a feature back in McCoy, who revived his career in Buffalo. He has 819 yards and nine touchdowns through 11 games, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He has exceeded 100 yards seven times over two seasons in Buffalo. In those games, the Bills are 7-0.

That might spell trouble for the Raiders. They rank 26th with 116.9 rushing yards allowed per game, and have given up a triple digit total in five of the last six games. While those totals aren’t great, the Raiders have won five straight.

That’s all that matters, though the Bills rushing ways might impact the final result. The Raiders have fallen victim to misdirection and schematic quirks, especially off the edge. They’ve been better in those areas lately, though chunk plays are still a problem. They’ve given up seven plays of 20-plus yards and three of 40 or more.

Stopping the run will be harder without Stacy McGee and Darius Latham in the interior rotation. That puts an onus on Dan Williams, Denico Autry and Justin Ellis to take more snaps and plug gaps in the middle. Stopping the run always involves discipline and sure tackling.

Doing that will be important, considering the Bills rank dead last in passing offense. That makes slowing the run imperative.

Taylor is the team’s second-leading rusher, with 639 yards on 6.3 yards per carry. That led Khalil Mack to say they have “two rushers in the backfield.”

Even so, it all starts with stopping Shady.

“McCoy is a type of runner, he can start to the right and he could end up on the left,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “It kind of reminds you of the old days, Barry Sanders. He could be anywhere. It’s important each player who’s involved in the defense and in charge of the gap, you have to be solid, you have to sound and you have to be disciplined and understand that we’re all connected. Everybody plays together. Not one guy tackles him. The whole unit is responsible for the running game.”