R.A. Dickey defeats Cardinals, is first to 18 wins

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If R.A. Dickey had fallen back a bit in the NL Cy Young race with his little rough patch after the All-Star break, he’s pretty clearly the favorite again now.

Dickey allowed two runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on Wednesday to become the first major leaguer to reach 18 wins this season. He’s allowed a total of three runs while winning his last three starts.

At 2.64, Dickey is still a bit behind Johnny Cueto (17-7, 2.58) for the NL ERA lead. However, most of the other more visible statistics favor him. He has just four losses on the year. He has five complete games to Cueto’s two and three shutouts to Cueto’s none. He also has 195 strikeouts, compared to 149 for Cueto.

What Cueto has is the disadvantage of pitching in a ballpark that’s much more favorable to hitters. Neutralizing for ballpark, baseball-reference gives Cueto a 165 ERA+, while Dickey is at 146. That’s a big difference, but it’s probably not something that is going to get much attention from voters.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.