Dillon Gee's turn in the Mets' rotation is sandwiched between a phenom and a prized prospect.
So when the righthander took the mound at Citi Field Saturday against the Washington Nationals, it wasn't accompanied by much fanfare, and understandably so.
But although he can't match Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler in fastball, hype or buzz, Gee did a fine job in what matters most -- posting zeros on the scoreboard in the Mets' 5-1 win.
Gee (6-7) allowed one run in six innings and the bullpen did for him what it couldn't do for Harvey on Friday night -- protect a lead. The win was the Mets' ninth in 14 games.
The Mets know their season is more about building for the future than playing for the present, but this little run has given them hope of being more than an also-ran this season.
"You can't worry about yesterday," manager Terry Collins said. "Nobody is more frustrated about it than I am or any of the players, but you've got to look ahead."
Gee is a good example of that attitude. Seemingly days away from being ticketed for the bullpen during his early-season struggles, he has rebounded nicely. He's been bothered by forearm tendinitis lately, and it has a tendency to crop up during games, but you'd never know by the results.
Gee allowed six hits and three walks and improved to 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his last six starts, a span of 401/3 innings.
Gee was hard on himself afterward, though, for not lasting longer. "The benchmark for everyone here is seven [innings],'' he said, "and I didn't get to it."
Collins took him out after only 85 pitches because he noticed him laboring in the sixth. After the inning, when he asked Gee in the dugout what he had left, Collins said he told him, " 'If you need me to go out, I'll go out,' which tells you [he's] running out of gas."
In an effort to manage Gee's forearm problem, Collins preferred to be cautious, and it paid off. Carlos Torres (two innings) and LaTroy Hawkins combined for three scoreless innings in relief.
Offensively, the Mets were led by Daniel Murphy, who went 3-for-5 with a triple and two runs. The Nationals also helped with a few fielding miscues.
Marlon Byrd led off the fourth by reaching on an error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and eventually scored on a single by John Buck to tie it at 1. It was only the second RBI for Buck since May 30.
An inning later, with Murphy on second and one out, Zimmerman again couldn't handle Byrd's grounder. After the ball bounced off his glove into shallow left, shortstop Ian Desmond tried to throw out Murphy at third, but the ball bounced off Murphy for another error and another Mets run. Byrd scored on a sacrifice fly by Kirk Nieuwenhuis to make it 3-1.
The Mets added two runs in the sixth. Omar Quintanilla led off with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Eric Young. Murphy tripled and scored on a two-out single by Byrd for a 5-1 lead.
All of which made for an upbeat clubhouse afterward, a far cry from just 18 hours earlier, after the bullpen let Harvey's gem slip away and players lamented a missed opportunity.
"You get a few wins, get some confidence back and guys start enjoying themselves more, as opposed to guys pressing," David Wright said. "You start enjoying it, playing loosely and let your talent take over."