The top of the Mets rotation is composed of two stoppers, stellar pitchers Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey, who halt losing slides in a hurry. Dillon Gee, as the first man in the rest of the rotation, showed last night that the skill does not stop with those two.
In what was perhaps the finest game of his young career, Gee shut out the Orioles through the first seven innings of a 4-3 win at Citi Field. He tied a career high with nine strikeouts and allowed only three hits and two walks and helped the Mets complete a three-game sweep with an effort worthy of his fellow starters.
Latest Mets stories
Yes, it hurt that he was the one who finally gave up two runs, on a home run to Wilson Betemit in the eighth, to end the Mets staff's scoreless streak at 29 innings. But he was solid, and, in his estimation, better than he would be if Santana and Dickey weren't going ahead of him every time he has a turn.
"You see what they did and you want to do the same thing, you want to keep the streak going and not let anybody down," said Gee (5-5), who left in the eighth with a 4-2 lead.
"At the same time, you have to fight that, because I know I'm not Johan, I'm not R.A. Dickey. I've got to be me," he said. "I've got to focus on my game and execute pitches. My job is to go out there and put us in a position to win."
He did just that, dominating the first seven innings, allowing only one hit, a single by Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz (5-8) in the third. It was the sort of game the Mets have come to expect from the Big Two. Terry Collins thought he was seeing something special again.
"I absolutely did," the manager said. "As a matter of fact, I wanted to get Franki [Francisco] into the game tonight. It's been three games since he's been in and I'm like, 'God, I've got to get Frankie in, but this guy's going to go into the ninth inning with a shutout.' ''
It turned out that Francisco did pitch the ninth -- a shaky one, in which he allowed a run, two hits and two walks before leaving the bases loaded ("I still feel I was in control the whole time," Francisco said after his 17th save). Gee also got help from Scott Hairston, who had two key doubles, and David Wright, who had three hits. Gee also scored the fourth run after he hit a double.
Of course, it was his pitching that was the story. No one expects Gee to make history as Santana did with his no-hitter or Dickey did with successive one-hitters. The Mets do, however, want him to try. "I think it's competition," Collins said.
Gee believes he is better than he would otherwise be if Dickey and Santana weren't here and on such a roll. "They set the tone," he said. "It makes me want to go out and do the same thing. Obviously, I'm not trying to go out there and be good just because R.A. was or Johan was. But it definitely gives us something to follow."
Hairston said, "Johan and R.A. are tough acts to follow, and I think it's motivating the rest of the pitching staff. It's a great thing."
It's also part of the Mets resilient streak. For the second time in a week, they rebounded from having been swept in a three-game series by sweeping the next series.
"We play hard and when you play hard, good things happen," said Gee, whose job is to make good things happen after two other pitchers make great things happen.