Mets-Diamondbacks Preview

Strong play at home has turned the Arizona Diamondbacks into a

contender in the NL West.

R.A. Dickey and the New York Mets have done the complete

opposite in their division race.

With a series against one of the teams they’re chasing in the

West looming, the Diamondbacks look to conclude this 10-game

homestand with an eighth victory Sunday against the Mets.

Arizona (51-50) was the unexpected NL West champion last year,

but the club has struggled to follow up that success in 2012 until

recently.

The Diamondbacks were seven games behind division-leading San

Francisco on July 19, but they’re within 4 1/2 now after winning

seven of nine.

They’re also 3 1/2 games back of second-place Los Angeles and

visit the Dodgers for a three-game set starting Monday.

Before that, Arizona will try to avoid overlooking the Mets

(48-53), who have dropped 14 of 16 to fall virtually out of the NL

East race.

The Diamondbacks beat New York 6-3 on Saturday for their second

straight win after opening this four-game set with a 3-1 loss

Thursday.

Arizona will now need to solve Dickey (13-2, 2.95 ERA), who is

tied with Washington’s Gio Gonzalez for the league lead in wins

while ranking among baseball’s leaders in ERA and strikeouts

(139).

Dickey was superb against the Diamondbacks on May 6, allowing

one run and four hits in eight innings of a 3-1 home victory. He

lost his only appearance at Chase Field on July 20, 2010, yielding

three runs in seven innings.

The knuckleballer, though, hasn’t been sharp lately, going 1-1

with a 6.49 ERA in five games – four starts. He suffered his first

loss since April 18 on Tuesday, surrendering five runs and eight

hits in six innings of a 5-2 defeat to Washington.

That ended Dickey’s string of 11 consecutive winning decisions

over 16 starts.

Mets first baseman Ike Davis has started to heat up after a

dismal first four months, hitting .317 with seven homers and 10

RBIs in 10 games to raise his season average to .216.

Davis did more than his share Saturday, becoming the ninth Met

to hit three homers in a game – all solo shots.

“It is a positive thing, but obviously I don’t want to hit .216

for my career,” Davis said. “I want to get base hits, too, and not

just home runs. If I am hitting just home runs, at least I am

helping the team in that way.”

Scheduled Arizona starter Joe Saunders (5-6, 3.51) is 2-0 with a

2.08 ERA in his last two home starts, striking out 14 in 13

innings.

The left-hander turned in another strong effort Tuesday,

matching his career high with nine strikeouts while yielding two

runs and three hits in seven innings of a 6-2 home win over

Colorado. It was his best performance in three starts since

spending nearly a month on the disabled list with a shoulder

strain.

Saunders didn’t get a decision in his lone start against the

Mets, yielding one run and two hits in six innings of a 4-1 road

loss April 22, 2011.

Miguel Montero is 10 for 20 with two homers and six RBIs in six

games after hitting a two-run shot Saturday. He’s batting .341 with

12 RBIs in 14 home meetings with the Mets.

”He’s been swinging the bat good. I gave him the day off the

other day to try to keep him fresh,” manager Kirk Gibson said.