R.A. Dickey has taken another step towards winning the National League Cy Young Award. The New York Mets' knuckle-balling ace pitched eight strong inning on Saturday, September 22, as the Mets defeated the Miami Marlins, 4-3, at Citi Field. Dickey won his 19th game of the season, lowered his ERA to a league-leading 2.66 and took over the N.L. lead in strikeouts with 209. In my opinion, he is the leading candidate to win the prestigious pitching award. Here's a look at where his competition stands entering play on Sunday, September 23.
Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves) -- Atlanta's lights-out closer has 38 saves with an ERA of 1.10 and 105 strikeouts in 57.1 innings -- that's an absurd ratio of 16.5 strikeouts per nine innings. However, the last closer to win the Cy Young was Eric Gagne in 2003. In my opinion, if New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera never won a Cy Young, no closer should ever win the award.
Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds) -- Cueto is having a career year for the Reds, who clinched the N.L. Central on Saturday. He ranks in the league's top five in wins and ERA at 18 and 2.84, respectively. In another year, he'd have a chance at winning the Cy. Brandon Webb -- remember him? -- won the award in 2006 with similar numbers, but this year's competition is too great.
Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers) -- Kershaw may be the best young lefty in the game. The reigning Cy Young champ is the league-leader in WHIP and second in strikeouts and ERA. However, Kershaw has missed a few starts (he may return on Sunday) and his record of 12-9 should prevent him from being seriously considered for the award this year.
Gio Gonzalez (Washington Nationals) -- Gonzalez may be Dickey's main competition for the Cy Young. The Nats' lefty won his 20th game of the season on Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers. However, 20 wins doesn't guarantee the Cy Young (Ian Kennedy won 21 games last season). Besides, Dickey may have at least 20 wins, too, by the time the regular season ends.
Adam Martini is a freelance sportswriter who grew up in Queens, N.Y. with a view of Shea Stadium from his bedroom window. He spent many nights in the upper deck at Shea rooting for the Mets. You can follow him on Twitter @PegCitySports.