NEW YORK (AP) — Coming off a solid performance, Florida’s Josh Johnson has re-emerged as one of the top contenders for the NL Cy Young Award.

R.A. Dickey might be in the conversation, too, if he could get more help from the New York Mets’ sluggish offense.

Two of the league’s top pitchers square off Tuesday night at Citi Field when Johnson and the Marlins open a three-game set against Dickey and the Mets.

Johnson (11-5, 2.27 ERA) looked like a possible favorite to win the Cy Young on July 22, when he was 10-3 with a major league-best 1.61 ERA. His chances of winning the award took a hit just over a week ago, however, when the right-hander’s worst start in three years capped a four-game stretch in which he went 0-2 with a 5.92 ERA.

After giving up six runs and 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss in Cincinnati on Aug. 13, Johnson returned to form Wednesday in Pittsburgh, allowing two runs in eight innings of a 3-2 victory.

The two-time All-Star credits the turnaround to some between-start help from pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

“My timing was a little bit off (in his most recent starts),” Johnson said.

After taking advantage of facing a Pirates team that has the NL’s worst offense, Johnson seemingly shouldn’t have much trouble against a struggling New York lineup. In his last start against the Mets on May 13, Johnson gave up one run and three hits over seven innings without a decision in a 2-1 win.

Johnson is 7-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 11 career starts versus New York (62-62). All-Star third baseman David Wright is a career .174 hitter against him.

The Mets, who lost to Pittsburgh 2-1 on Sunday, have plated three runs or fewer in 10 of 13 games. They’ve scored 10 runs in seven contests at Citi Field this month.

That sputtering offense has made things tough on Dickey (8-5, 2.41).

His win-loss record is not indicative of how well he’s pitched, notching 14 quality starts in 18 outings. The knuckleballer has a 1.99 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break, but a 1.99 run support average has left him with a 2-3 record.

Dickey received just enough offensive support when he one-hit Philadelphia in a 1-0 win Aug. 13, but he couldn’t make do with two runs Wednesday. The right-hander was lifted after allowing a game-tying solo homer with one out in the ninth, and New York went on to win 3-2 in 14 innings.

“I felt like I had been punched in the gut,” Dickey told the Mets’ official website. “But I felt like I did the best I could.”

Dickey has been at his best at Citi Field this year, going 5-1 with a 1.22 ERA in six starts. In his lone outing there against the Marlins, Dickey gave up three runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-3 victory June 4.

The Marlins (62-61) arrive in New York following Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Houston, snapping a five-game winning streak. After the game, popular outfielder Cody Ross was awarded to San Francisco on a waiver claim.

“You can characterize it as whatever you want – a white flag, or anything like that,” president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. “We’re realistic about where we are.”

© 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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