WASHINGTON - As if Dillon Gee already didn't have enough on his mind, it probably didn't help Tuesday that he sat alone in an empty clubhouse with the rest of the Mets visiting the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Gee, called up Monday from Triple-A Buffalo, was scheduled to make his major-league debut, so he stayed behind. Gee looked uncomfortable and anxious before the game, but when he took the mound at Nationals Park, it was a completely different story.
Gee's brief flirtation with a no-hitter ended when Willie Harris led off the sixth inning with a home run, but he was plenty good enough to help the Mets nail down a 4-1 victory.
"That went better than expected," said Gee, who allowed two hits over seven innings. "I kind of blacked out, I think. I don't know what happened out there. I was very nervous. I was surprised that my first pitch didn't hit the backstop."
Gee, who was 13-8 with a 4.96 ERA for the Bisons, became the third Mets rookie to take a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his first career start. Brian Bannister made it 51/3 innings against the Nationals in 2006. Randy Sterling also went just as far against the Expos in 1974.
It figured that it would be Harris - the Mets killer - to end Gee's bid shortly after he was double-switched into the game in the top of the sixth. Kevin Mench had the other hit, a one-out single in the seventh, but he was erased on a double play.
Gee (1-0) became the second Mets rookie in four days to make his starting debut and his performance overshadowed Jenrry Mejia, who lost to the Cubs on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Gee doesn't throw 97 mph like Mejia, but his fastball reached 94 mph and a tight-breaking slider frustrated the Nationals.
"He's a pitcher, and anytime you catch a pitcher on top of his game, he can do those types of things for you," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I like to see a guy have that kind of presentation his first time on the mound."
When Gee, 24, struck out the side in the fourth - whiffing Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn - it was easy to see why he set Buffalo's modern-day record for strikeouts this season with 165 in 1611/3 innings.
Gee also outlasted the Nats' highly touted prospect, Yunesky Maya, as it marked the first time in Mets history that two rookie starters made their major-league debuts against each other.
The Mets were forced to go with an additional Bison last night - Mike Hessman - when David Wright had to be scratched with a bruised left ring finger. Wright suffered the injury with a headfirst slide on his failed attempt to steal second base during the fifth inning of Monday's 13-3 loss.
The Hessman-adjusted lineup didn't seem to miss Wright. In the first inning, after back-to-back singles by Luis Hernandez and Carlos Beltran, Ike Davis belted his third home run in four games to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.
Gee, who was 0-for-22 at Buffalo, helped himself in the second inning with his first hit this season. After Ruben Tejada's one-out double, Gee poked a run-scoring single into centerfield. "I would love to see him get another shot," Manuel said, "because he looks like he may be a big piece for this organization and this franchise."