Reliability factor: Gee leads Mets to sweep of Rockies
Starter shakes off early difficulty, allows one run over 7 2/3 in finale
NEW YORK -- Once every five days, Dillon Gee takes the mound for the Mets. Typically, he's brought good fortune -- he had a 2.53 ERA in his last 12 starts entering Thursday.
But he typically also follows Matt Harvey in the rotation -- maybe the toughest act to follow in the Majors. Gee doesn't have the dazzling stuff that Harvey uses to blow batters away, and he doesn't have the Cy Young-caliber numbers, but Harvey is an aberration -- a generational talent. Gee is a throwback.
"Dillon Gee is the prototypical pitcher," New York manager Terry Collins said. "There's days where maybe his slider's real good or days maybe his changeup's real good or days maybe his curveball's real good, but he's got four quality Major League pitches. And when he's using all four, he's tough to hit, because he has the knack for being able to throw those pitches at any time."
Gee delivered another gem on Thursday, allowing just one run over 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 win over the Rockies, leading the Mets to their first three-game home sweep this season. Gee scattered eight hits and struck out just three batters, but he didn't walk any to overcome some early difficulties in front of a Citi Field crowd of 26,618.
In the blink of an eye, it appeared his remarkable string of strong outings would come to an end. Charlie Blackmon led off the game with a single, and DJ LeMahieu followed with another. Three pitches into the game, Colorado had runners on first and second with no outs.
Gee struggled warming up before the game, and his first inning revealed the shakiness. A fly ball to right field by Corey Dickerson should have given the Rockies runners on first and third with one out, but LeMahieu decided to test Marlon Byrd and darted for second base. The outfielder fired the ball in to second for the double play. Byrd -- and LeMahieu -- had bailed Gee out.
"It takes a lot of pressure off me at that moment," Gee said.
From that point, Gee was spectacular. He fired strike after strike and had thrown only 87 pitches -- 65 for strikes -- when he was pulled in the eighth inning. Entering Thursday, he was throwing an average of just 3.45 pitches to each batter since June 4 -- the best mark in the Majors.
"He pitched very effectively after the first inning," Collins said. "Once the game went on, he got better and loosened up more."
The lone notable mistake came on a fastball that he left up to Dickerson, who deposited his second career home run over the wall in right field to give Colorado a 1-0 lead in the fourth. But a half-inning later, the Mets got it back.
Collins knows his team is struggling to score runs -- "We didn't exactly knock the ball all over the ballpark," he said -- but they've found ways to manufacture them. In Thursday's win, the two runs came without an RBI hit.
A day after delivering his first big league RBIs with a three-run double, Wilmer Flores again came to the plate with the bases loaded. All he needed on Thursday was a groundout to advance every runner one base and tie the game. One batter later, catcher Anthony Recker gave the Mets their 2-1 lead with a sacrifice fly.
"Win playing small ball, big ball, long ball, doesn't matter. A win is a win," Byrd said. "We get pitching like that ... we have to put runs on the board."
In his last few innings, Gee settled in. All three strikeouts came in the fourth inning or later -- two with the slider and one with the curveball. His fastball averages less than 90 mph, so he turned away from that and went to his trio of "Major League" secondary pitches.
Against the Rockies, his choice was the changeup. He didn't throw it at all in the first two innings, and then went to it three times in the third. By the fifth inning, it had become his secondary pitch of choice.
"He's got a good changeup that he can go to at any time to get hitters off his fastball, and he can throw breaking balls for a strike," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. "When you do that, you can command the at-bats. He's been throwing the ball pretty well, and he did a nice job today."
There's no big secret to Gee's recent run of success -- he uses the cliche of just trying to throw strikes -- but he said that he is throwing with more confidence.
It started with a gem against the Yankees in the Subway Series on May 30 with his back against the wall.
With rookie Zack Wheeler on the verge of a callup, someone was going to be bumped out of the rotation, and Gee was thought by some to be a candidate. His ERA at that time was higher than six, but from that moment something has clicked.
"He's a good pitcher. He's been a good pitcher," Collins said. "There has never been, since I've been here, a question of him not being in this rotation.
"Just because he doesn't do it as flashily, perhaps, as some of the other guys do, the way they pitch, he still gets it done."