In the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday night, Mets manager Terry Collins had a conversation with R.A. Dickey in the dugout.
Dickey had been masterful to that point, shutting out the Pittsburgh Pirates and collecting a career-high 10 strikeouts.
The Mets had a 1-0 lead and Dickey appeared poised to earn just his second win in his last 10 starts.
If the whole major league starting pitcher thing doesn't work out, Dickey will certainly have a career in sales.
Dickey sold Collins on giving him another inning.
The Pirates then rallied for three runs, all charged to Dickey, and the Mets went on to lose, 5-1.
Collins isn't a superstitious man. He doesn't believe in curses and he doesn't believe the Mets are "snake-bitten," as owner Fred Wilpon asserts.
But maybe he should admit to himself that the Mets are just plain unlucky.
Dickey's status was uncertain last night after the knuckleballer suffered a partial tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot during last Thursday's loss to Chicago.
Dickey fought through the pain and was simply dominant.
After surrendering a leadoff double to Jose Tabata in the first inning, Dickey retired eight in a row before walking Tabata in the third. Thirteen straight outs later, Dickey gave up a single to Josh Harrison.
But Dickey was visibly uncomfortable for the entire game. Any time he came off the mound, it was clear Dickey was unable to plant his feet properly to make a throw to first.
Yet somehow he managed to make it through seven impressive innings.
After he allowed Dickey to bat in the bottom of the seventh, it was clear Collins was caught up in the moment.
With the news that Ike Davis would be out at least another month with a bone bruise on his right ankle, a complete game shutout from Dickey would have been just the medicine the Mets needed.
But Collins allowed Dickey just enough rope to hang himself.
After a first-inning run, the Mets offense shut down, collecting just four hits the rest of the game. For the 10th straight game, the Mets did not hit a home run, their longest drought since 1979.
Collins was clearly trying to will Dickey to finish the game, and the decision cost him.
In the eighth, Dickey allowed a leadoff single to Ronny Cedeno but got the next two hitters out. Dickey then hit Tabata to push the tying run into scoring position, and still Collins did not take him out.
Even after Harrison's game-tying single, Dickey was left in the game.
It wasn't until Dickey walked Andrew McCutchen to load the bases and then gave up a two-run single to Neil Walker that Collins finally took Dickey out.
Jason Isringhausen then got the final, merciful out.
If Collins isn't going to his bullpen in a one-run game in the eighth inning, then when does he plan on using it?
For all the Mets' shortcomings, one thing they do have his definition in the bullpen.
Isringhausen pitches the eighth, Francisco Rodriguez pitches the ninth.
Yes, a complete game from Dickey, or even just eight shutout innings, would have been fantastic.
But Dickey is too important to the success of the starting rotation to push him through when he's clearly injured.
Even if Dickey had managed to get through the eighth and the Mets had gone on to win, would it have been worth it if Dickey landed on the DL?
Collins cannot manage a game on "what if" scenarios, but the Mets certainly cannot afford to lose Dickey for an extended period of time because they wanted to earn a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It wasn't the Phillies and it wasn't an important game.
What is important is keeping as many players healthy as possible, especially with Davis and David Wright still on the DL.
It's not as if Dickey wasn't visibly in pain throughout the game. The fact that he was able to dominate for seven innings brought back memories of Curt Schilling and a certain bloody sock.
But you bring Dickey into the dugout, shake his hand, thank him for a great start and turn things over to the bullpen.
You don't push your 36-year-old starter with a foot injury through a eight innings.
This isn't the first time Collins has allowed one of his starting pitchers to talk his way into a game.
On April 29, Mike Pelfrey was still recovering from the flu and Collins allowed him to make his scheduled start against the Phillies at Citizen's Bank Park.
Pelfrey allowed run earned runs on eight hits over 4.1 innings in the 10-3 loss.
Collins was brought in because he was a fiery, no-nonsense manager. The kind of guy the Mets needed.
But apparently it's the players who call the shots and Collins is just lucky to be there.
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