Dillon Gee didn't pitch a no-hitter like Johan Santana or a shutout like R.A. Dickey or even six scoreless innings like Jon Niese did in the three starts preceding his. But Gee was up to the Mets' recent elevated standard for starting pitching in the seven innings he threw before his own throwing error and a bullpen breakdown allowed St. Louis to escape with a 5-4 victory and avoid a four-game sweep Monday at Citi Field.
The Mets twice came back to tie the score on a solo homer by Lucas Duda in the fourth and a two-run homer by pinch hitter Scott Hairston in the seventh that left the score at 3-all and took Gee off the hook. Gee allowed six hits and struck out eight.
The loss was pinned on Mets reliever Jon Rauch (3-5), who gave up a leadoff single to Matt Holliday in the eighth before a one-out homer to leftfield by Allen Craig gave the Cardinals a 5-3 lead. After the game, manager Terry Collins announced that Rauch experienced soreness in his throwing elbow. He left after the game for a hospital examination.
"He's got a little tenderness," Collins said of Rauch. "We're going to have the doctor look at him. He's been pitching good enough. Today, he just got the fastball up to the wrong guy."
According to Collins, Rauch indicated he has been dealing with elbow issues for some time. "He said he's been doing fine with it," Collins said. "It pops up once in a while. Today, after he got warmed and got on the mound, all of a sudden, his arm was bothering him."
The Mets mounted a third comeback in the bottom of the eighth as pinch hitter Josh Thole singled, Kirk Nieuwenhuis doubled and Thole scored on a sacrifice fly by Andres Torres to cut the deficit to a run. But David Wright flied out to end the threat. Still, the Mets finished a great homestand with a 7-4 record that left them a half-game behind first-place Washington and Miami in the NL East as they head south for a three-game series with the Nationals.
"We've got to pick it up, keep moving forward, keep executing," Collins said. "Today, if we execute a couple plays, we win the baseball game."
Gee went pitch for pitch with Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse as the teams battled to a 1-1 tie through six innings. But Gee walked Craig to lead off the seventh and David Freese followed with a single that moved Craig to third. Gee then fielded a soft grounder by Daniel Descalso and tried to force Freese at second, but his throw was in the dirt and skipped into the outfield, allowing Craig to score.
Explaining his error, Gee said: "On the way to the ball, I was a little indecisive about what I should do. I looked at third base, and he was going back to the bag, so I tried to get the lead runner at second. I just made a bad throw."
There was nothing wrong with Gee's throws to the plate. He had command of his fastball, threw the curve for strikes and located his changeup well.
"I feel good about the outing I had," Gee said. "I beat myself that inning. You've got to give credit to the guys. They show you day in and day out that they keep fighting. They got me off the hook and we were in it until the last out."
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.