"R.A. came in today and said, 'Today's my day,'" said manager Terry Collins.
Santana earned his first win May 5 against Arizona, throwing seven innings and allowing three runs. Dickey pitched eight innings of one-run ball the next day in another Mets win. Santana shut out the Padres on May 26, striking out seven. Dickey struck out 10 a day later, throwing 7 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball for a win.
Santana threw a no-hitter Friday. Dickey threw a shutout Saturday.
"It's no easy chore to follow up what Johan did yesterday," said Dickey, who has struck out 38, walked two and allowed four runs in his past four starts. "So I went to bed last night reminding myself to bring what I bring, whatever that is."
That's a knuckleball in the 70s, a fastball in the 80s and curveball in the 50s.
He threw all three pitches against the Cardinals, keeping them off-balance as he limited them to seven hits while striking out nine.
"He's one of those guys that can throw it slower, fast," said Carlos Beltran, whose second-inning double ended any hopes of a repeat no-hitter. "At the same time, he throws a [curveball] and a fastball. When you see a guy who only throws the knuckleball, you can see the one pitch. But he's a little difficult, because he can throw any pitch at any time."
Santana is the unquestioned ace and leader of the clubhouse, but Dickey followed each of the left-hander's three wins this season with victories of his own, and moved into a tie with two other pitchers, including Cardinals counterpart Lance Lynn, for a Major League-leading eight wins.
"I've never once in my life rooted against [Santana], I simply want to take a step to meet the bar that he has already set," Dickey said. "He has set the tone. I don't like being one-upped anyway, but it's fun to compete with him internally on who can have a better outing. ... Any time you're in a competitive environment, you want to do the best you can. That's how I am, and I know it's how he is."
While Dickey worked out of his only trouble by inducing double plays in the second and ninth innings and getting Matt Holliday to strike out looking with two on in the sixth, Lynn faltered when he got into second-inning trouble.
Ike Davis led off the frame with a single, Lynn hit Omar Quintanilla and Josh Thole loaded the bases with an infield single. Davis scored when Dickey reached on a catching error by first baseman Matt Adams, which was due in part to a rushed low throw by second baseman Daniel Descalso, and two more runs scored on groundouts. When Lynn loaded the bases again in the fifth, he was already at 105 pitches and his outing was over.
The Mets left men on base in each of the first seven innings, stranding 11 in total, but three early runs, another on a wild pitch in the seventh and David Wright's homer in the eighth were enough for Dickey. He continued to puzzle opponents as he joined Santana with a sub-3.00 ERA in a following act he wanted to avoid, but already mastered.
"The way that Johan and Dickey are pitching right now, it would be tough to find a team that has two guys throwing the ball better than they are right now," Wright said. "That's in either league."