MILWAUKEE - Dillon Gee, the Mets' Opening Day starter, has built a solid big-league career because he understands his limitations. Experience has taught the righthander how to thrive despite a margin for error that is tiny.
At the center of it all is command. Without it, he's lost, as the Brewers made abundantly clear last night. In a 9-1 pounding of the Mets, the Brewers piled on against Gee, who paid a heavy price for leaving his pitches over the plate.
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In his third start since coming off the disabled list, Gee (4-3) allowed a season-high six runs in five innings, though he insisted that he's confident that a turnaround is within reach.
"I'm healthy," said Gee, who had been sidelined with a strained right lat muscle. "It's just you hit those [stretches] sometimes where you're just not feeling it. It's kind of what I've been going through the last week or so. But it's nothing new. I've been there before."
Jonathan Lucroy blasted his 12th homer off Gee. It was the first of the Brewers' three home runs, with Ryan Braun and Khris Davis homering against reliever Daisuke Matsuzaka.
After winning consecutive games to even their 10-game road trip at 3-3, the Mets fell to the streaking Brewers, who increased their lead in the NL Central to three games by winning their fourth in a row.
Righthander Matt Garza (7-7), who was knocked out in the first inning of his previous start, held the Mets to one run and two hits in eight innings. The only damage came on Lucas Duda's team-leading 16th homer, a solo shot that came after the Mets had fallen behind 7-0.
Otherwise, the Mets' offense continued its tumble during a critical road trip, during which they are hitting just .168 and scoring 2.1 runs per game. Duda's homer was only the second hit by the Mets since the All-Star break.
In the second half, All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy is 5-for-30 (.167) and David Wright is 5-for-27 (.185). Curtis Granderson finished 0-for-4 in his return to the lineup after missing two games with a stomach ailment. He's just 3-for-19 (.158) on the road trip, yet another piece of the slumping Mets' core.
"When they get in a funk, someone else has got to step up," Collins said. "And we're not doing that yet."
The Brewers needed only three innings to seize a 6-0 lead against Gee.
"We know Dillon's better than that," Collins said. "He knows he's better than that."
When Gee came off the disabled list on July 9, he pitched as if he had never been away. He allowed one run to the Braves in seven innings, lowering his ERA to 2.56 in his first outing after a two-month layoff. Then the All-Star break hit, and Gee had to wait 10 days before returning to the mound.
The results have been alarming. In two second-half starts, Gee has been tagged for 10 runs and 11 hits in 12 innings. His ERA has spiked to 3.49.
"I've been in this situation before," Gee said. "I've had bad starts before and I'm probably going to have some more sometime else in my career. The key is just trying to bounce back as fast as you can."