PITTSBURGH - The temperature at first pitch hit 87 degrees, a number that failed to measure the full effect of the mugginess during a midsummer afternoon. But as they've done in the past month, the road-weary Mets overcame the effects of fatigue Sunday with a 4-2 win over the Pirates to close out the first half on an encouraging note.
"It's a big lift for us," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It just says a lot about the makeup of this team -- the way they've played the last three weeks due to the travel, and the weather, and the innings. It's pretty impressive to be around them."
Daniel Murphy knocked in a run with a stand-up triple, John Buck drove in a pair with a bases-loaded single and Dillon Gee allowed one run (which was unearned) in 6 2/3 innings to help the Mets avoid a sweep.
"There's no giving up," Gee said. "We've been fighting since the first day. It wasn't going the way we wanted it to for a while there but we've turned it around."
The Mets pulled into the break at 41-50, their first sub-.500 mark at the break since going 42-45 in 2009. Nevertheless, the Mets ended the half on an upswing. Starting with their win over the Cubs on June 16, they have gone 17-11 and wrapped up their nine-game road trip at 6-3.
Before a sellout crowd of 37,490 at PNC Park, the Mets chased highly touted Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole (4-3, 3.89 ERA), the No. 1 selection in the 2011 draft. Meanwhile, Gee pitched well enough to spare the Mets' burned-out bullpen from another afternoon of heavy lifting. "He gave us everything that we needed today and we got a nice job by the relievers," Collins said.
Gee (7-7, 4.32) departed after walking Travis Snider with two outs in the seventh. He has had quality starts in seven of his last nine outings.
Scott Atchison, who returned from the disabled list before the game, bailed out Gee with a strikeout of Starling Marte to end the seventh. LaTroy Hawkins, who has been battling fatigue, allowed Jordy Mercer's single and Andrew McCutchen's double to begin the eighth but limited the damage to one run.
Closer Bobby Parnell capped his breakout first half with his 17th save after allowing a pair of one-out singles.
"We had a tremendous finish in this month," Collins said. "We've just got to take our break, get some energy back from all the innings we played and get ready for Friday."
In the first inning, the Mets jumped on Cole, a righthander who was drafted by the Yankees in the first round in 2008 before opting to attend UCLA.
After Eric Young Jr. reached on an infield single and went to third on David Wright's one-out single, Marlon Byrd picked up his 51st RBI with a ground-rule double and Josh Satin, who played for Ike Davis despite the Pirates' use of a righthander, worked a walk to load the bases. Kirk Nieuwenhuis popped up for the second out, but Buck lofted a two-run single to right for a 3-0 lead. Cole needed 31 pitches just to escape the first.
Gee then survived a few defensive miscues to limit the Pirates to one run.
"We're not happy with where we're sitting," Collins said, referring to this team's sub-.500 mark.
However, despite injuries that wiped out three starting pitchers along with a constantly changing supporting cast, the Mets have at least steadied themselves heading into the second half.
"We had a nice month after a couple of pretty bad months," Wright said. "You can't complain about a 6-3 road trip."