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.

Red Sox end Astros’ 10-game winning streak

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The Red Sox salvaged the final game of their three-game home series against the Astros, winning 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. In doing so, they ended the Astros’ 10-game winning streak.

Xander Bogaerts struck the decisive blow, knocking in a run with a double in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie. Michael Chavis also hit another homer — his eighth of the season — while Mookie Betts collected three hits and scored three runs to raise his OPS to .899.

The Astros last lost on May 7 against the Royals, the second game of a three-game series. The Astros won the final game of that set, then swept the Rangers in a four-game series, the Tigers in three, and won the first two games against the Red Sox. It’s their second 10-game winning streak of the season, as they won 10 striaght between April 5-16, sweeping the Athletics, Yankees, and Mariners before losing the second of two games against the A’s in Oakland.

At 31-16, the Astros are slightly behind the Twins — in progress as of this writing — for the best winning percentage in the majors. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have made up some ground after ending April 13-17. They’re now 24-22, good for third place in the AL East.