NEW YORK -- R.A. Dickey has been up and down from the minors, bouncing from one city to another while pitching for four big league teams over the past five years.
Imagine where the New York Mets would be without him.
Dickey took a three-hitter into the ninth inning and rookie Ike Davis hit a three-run homer Thursday in a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals that gave New York its first series victory in more than a month.
"This is a special game," Dickey said. "This may be a game that we're able to point back to later in the season as a turning point."
Angel Pagan tripled and scored twice for the Mets, who took two of three from St. Louis to drop the Cardinals into second place in the NL Central, a half-game behind idle Cincinnati. New York won for only the fifth time in 18 games but improved to 28-12 in its past 40 at home.
Working on three days' rest, Dickey (7-4) showed no ill effects of the sore left hip that prompted manager Jerry Manuel to pull the knuckleballer from a scoreless game at Dodger Stadium in the sixth inning Sunday.
Once he was deemed healthy, Dickey was moved up in the rotation this week so the Mets could separate Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, allowing 38-year-old Henry Blanco to catch both without having to play a day game after a night game.
About 12 1/2 hours after a 13th-inning single by Albert Pujols sent St. Louis to an 8-7 victory, Dickey went to the mound and shut down the Cardinals in his longest outing this season and one of the best of his career.
"We lost a heartbreaker yesterday. The propensity is to pout about it or mope about it," Dickey said. "You really saw the character of this team today."
The 35-year-old journeyman, a surprise savior for the Mets since getting called up from Triple-A Buffalo, gave his team's taxed bullpen a much-needed rest in his first win since June 23 against Detroit.
The Mets played at least 13 innings three times in the previous eight days, losing all three.
"There's a lot of guys probably saying, `When is the horseshoe going to drop?' And that's OK with me," Dickey said. "I feel like I'm good enough to be here and good enough to stay here."
Manuel was booed loudly when he came out of the dugout to remove Dickey, who got a standing ovation as he trotted off the mound after extending his scoreless streak to a career-best 17 innings.
"He does a tremendous job," Manuel said. "He right now seems to get through the lineup two or three times relatively easy. And that's tough to do at this level -- for anybody."
"They didn't know that I didn't have my best knuckleball and I wasn't going to let 'em know," Dickey said.
Dickey threw 73 of 118 pitches for strikes in a game that took 2 hours, 26 minutes. He was 0-4 in his previous six starts despite a 2.82 ERA during that stretch.
"He did a good job keeping us off balance," Jay said. "Most knuckleballers are slower. His is like a hard split-finger. That's the best knuckleballer I've seen. You could tell he knew what he wanted to do out there."
Davis also started a pair of double plays at first base and Carlos Beltran added an RBI single. The Mets had been 0-6-1 in series since taking two of three from Minnesota at home June 25-27.
"Right after the All-Star break we just had a little funk," Davis said. "We've been in every game, we're just losing by one run every time. At home, we've been a different team."
After Beltran flied out to shallow center, Davis drove the next pitch to the right of straightaway center, about three rows deep in the bleachers, for his 15th home run.
"I'm sure he was looking for something out over the plate with men on base," Hawksworth said. "He's got kind of a long swing, but the changeup stayed in the middle and he crushed it. One mistake today."
Pagan hit his seventh triple with one out in the fifth and Beltran followed with a single that made it 4-0.
Holliday went 0 for 4, ending his season-best hitting streak at 13 games. ... St. Louis was shut out for the 10th time. ... Dickey's only complete game was a six-hit shutout for Texas against Detroit on Aug. 20, 2003. ... Mets 3B David Wright was rested. Mike Hessman started in his place. ... New York LF Jason Bay sat out for the third straight game with a concussion. Manuel said if Bay still feels symptoms Friday, the team is likely to make a roster move. ... Rain fell briefly in the late innings on umbrella day at Citi Field.