Dillon Gee knew what was at stake.
When he walked out to the mound at Yankee Stadium Thursday night to start the final game of the Subway Series, he knew he was pitching for more than a four-game sweep of the Yankees. Gee was pretty sure he was pitching to keep his spot in the Mets' starting rotation.
"I'm not stupid. I know that when you have that many bad outings in a row, you're hanging by a thread out there," Gee said. "It's hard to put into words. I needed that on so many levels, it's crazy."
With 12 strikeouts in 71/3 innings, Gee produced his best start of the season as the Mets completed their sweep of the Yankees with a 3-1 victory.
Gee (3-6, 5.68 ERA) earned his first win since May 1. He gave up one run, four hits and no walks, striking out the last five batters he faced. In fact, he retired the last 15 batters he faced before he was pulled for Scott Rice after only 88 pitches. Riceand Bobby Parnell retired the last five batters in order to make it 20 straight.
With the Mets likely to bring up Zack Wheeler from Triple-A Las Vegas sometime in June, it was looking like a fait accompli that Gee would be the one to lose his spot in the rotation. Now it appears as though Mets manager Terry Collins will have some hard decisions to make.
Collins made it clear before the game that Gee's status was shaky at best. "Right now, he's one of our five guys in the rotation," he said. "If he doesn't pitch good, we've got to find somebody to take that spot. Any time you go out there, if you can't get people out, we've got to find people to replace you."
After the game, Collins said he had talked to Gee after his last start against the Braves on Saturday night and told him that he might have to take him out of the rotation. Gee told Collins how frustrated he was with the inconsistency of his starts.
"I told him, you won 14 games two years ago," said Collins, who added one to Gee's actual win total in 2011. "I said to him, if you're not hurt, it's still in you."
One of the most encouraging aspects of Gee's performance is that he seemed to get stronger in the middle innings, a time when he has faltered in the past.
After getting out of jams in the first and second innings, Gee said he really started to feel good about the way the game was going.
But the best feeling came when Collins came out to the mound after 71/3 innings to tell him he was being relieved.
Said Gee with a smile: "For once, he was able to say, 'Good job' when I came off."