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Gilmartin gives Mets needed innings in solid start

Left-hander allows just two runs on three hits over five solid frames vs. Phils

PHILADELPHIA -- Life as a spot starter can often be difficult. Sean Gilmartin did not know he would pitch Thursday in place of injured starter Steven Matz until the day before, for example, forcing him to rush into his preparation. The Mets have been making those sorts of last-minute decisions all week, also using Logan Verrett on Wednesday.

That things did not work out for them in Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Phillies, however, was far from Gilmartin's fault. In his first career start, the left-hander limited the Phillies to nothing more than Darin Ruf's two-run homer, giving the Mets what they needed more than anything: innings.

"My focus was to go out there and just get quick innings -- really," Gilmartin said. "I knew it was a situation where we were sort of shorthanded. The game [Wednesday] night was kind of funky, so my goal was just to go out and give the team as many innings as I had in me."

That wound up being five, with Tim Stauffer tacking on two more. For the Mets, it was plenty; in a quiet ballpark, with a frosty wind whipping right to left all afternoon, the Mets simply wanted to emerge from Philadelphia with their key contributors healthy.

That hasn't been easy in recent days, as Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores and Matz -- all of them potentially October cogs -- dropped one by one with minor injuries. Nor has this week been ideal for the Mets, who lead the race for home-field advantage in the National League Division Series, but they can't be sure how much longer that will last. They do own the tiebreaker over the Dodgers, so the Mets just have to finish with the same record as L.A. for the NLDS to start at Citi Field.

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For weeks, manager Terry Collins has walked a fine balance to that end, trying to achieve those goals while also evaluating players like Gilmartin -- a Rule 5 Draft pick who has proven invaluable at times pitching long out of the bullpen -- on the postseason roster bubble. If Matz proves healthy enough to start an NLDS game and both Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese make the bullpen, the Mets may decide not to carry Gilmartin despite his contributions throughout the summer.

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That decision, among many others in the bullpen and on the bench, will come next week. For now, the Mets were happy simply to survive a series that, sweep aside, could have turned out much worse.

"It's tough," Collins said. "We asked two guys to step up and start games. We kind of threw it at them. It's just the way the series went. If you went down this path, you knew there was going to be an energy drain. But we rested the guys we need to rest. We'll get into the weekend and get ourselves ready for next week."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
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