Coming off two straight great starts, Dillon Gee opened tonight walking Matt Carpenter. It wasn’t of note however, as a strikeout, flyout to right, and a soft grounder to himself ended the first quietly. The bottom of the first inning featured the struggling Mets lineup facing off against another young Cardinal phenom – Shelby Miller.
For the second straight night, that phenom had to labor through the inning. Jordany Valdespin flied out to Jon Jay (who recovered from a poor break) on his eight pitch. Omar Quintanilla had a much different start, striking out swinging weakly on four pitches. The long-lost two out magic returned though, as Wright doubled to right center, and Murphy worked a deep count before singling him in. Lucas Duda followed with a single of his own and scored Murphy, who made it home by virtue of an automatic start and a lackadaisical throw to second from right fielder Carlos Beltran.
Yadier Molina got the Cardinals prepared to fight back, doubling on Gee’s first pitch of the second inning. Gee then got ahead of David Freese and got the ball bounced back to him to get an out and freeze Molina. Jon Jay lined a single to left to put runners at the corner with only one out. Dillon proceeded to do what Dillon has done so well in his past few starts – buckling down. He coaxed a foul pop-up out of shortstop Pete Kozma before striking out Miller to end the inning unscathed.
John Buck grounded out to Kozma to start the bottom half of the inning. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, making his second start back from Las Vegas, looked at strike three as Miller dialed his fastball up to 95mph. Gee fouled off a pitch, but that was it as he eventually struck out to end the second.
The third inning was quiet, featuring a Carlos Beltran single between a pair of flyouts to Kirk Nieuwenhuis and a groundout to David Wright. Jordany Valdespin bunted a bit too hard in the bottom half and both Omar Quintanilla and David Wright struck out.
Yadier Molina led off the fourth with his second hit, this time lining a ball off the glove arm of Dillon Gee. David Freese ran the count full before striking out, and Gee quickly got Jon Jay to fly out and Pete Kozma to ground out sharply to second base to end it again.
Daniel Murphy led off the bottom half by flying out to left before Lucas Duda had his second hard-hit ball of the day. Carlos Beltran didn’t get a chance to make a lazy throw on this one though. No one did, as it was Duda’s 11th home run, a long shot to second base. Marlon Byrd looked at strike 3 and John Buck flied out softly to right to close the frame.
A groundout by Miller and a Carpenter strikeout brought up Carlos Beltran, who did his best Yadi by lining a ball off Dillon Gee toward second base. Fortunately for the Mets, the ball got to Valdespin soon enough to make the play at first.
Kirk and Dillon both fanned again to open the Mets’ half of the fifth, marking Shelby Miller’s eighth and ninth strikeouts of the game. Jordany Valdespin bucked that trend though, but ’twas for naught as it was a soft ground ball to Allen Craig at first.
Speaking of Craig, he got the Cardinals on the board in the sixth, homering on a 3-2 pitch with one out. Molina followed that up with a double to left. Stirkouts to Freese and Jay ended the inning and stranded another runner.
Quintanilla gave Shelby Miller his tenth strikeout of the evening (and his third of the night), but the Mets would strike again. David Wright went back to right center, but this time went all the way back for his ninth home run of the year. Daniel Murphy, after fouling off several pitches, popped out near the Cardinals’ on-deck circle before Lucas Duda flied out to center to end the sixth.
Dillon Gee opened the seventh by coaxing a gentle fly ball to Pete Kozma. Ty Wigginton came on as a pinch hitter and struck out on three pitches, signaling the end of Miller’s night. Miller struck out ten over six innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits (2 HR, 1 2B). Gee’s night would then end just as it began, with Matt Carpenter working his second walk of the day. Gee threw 6.2 innings, allowing only a run on six hits (1 HR) and two walks against seven strikeouts. Scott “Every Minute” Rice (as Gary Cohen called him) coaxed a fielder’s choice to reach the seventh inning stretch.
Marlon Byrd flapped his wings once again, launching a long home run to open the eighth inning. Two ground outs later, Josh Satin made his season debut as a pinch hitter in unspectacular fashion, making solid contact on a few foul balls before taking a called third strike.
Brandon Lyon came on to pitch the eighth, retiring Holliday (5-3), Craig (F9), and Molina (3-1) in short order. Edward Mujica, pitching the eighth to get some work in, quickly retired Valdespin (4-3) and Quintanilla (K #4) before Wright reached base on an error by David Freese. Edward Mujica then balked Wright to second base. He was stranded there, though, as Murphy lined out to center field to end the eighth inning.
Parnell entered into a non-save situation, his first outing since struggling badly against Miami on Sunday. On his second pitch, he retired David Freese on a check-swing nubber that ended his 20-game hitting streak. A pair of fly balls to Marlon Byrd ended it.
> Dillon Gee was successful while averaging a mile or two fewer on his fastball. Despite the diminished velocity, this seems to be a positive. Gee’s strength is in locating and changing speeds and levels, and it seems the lowered velocity was a result of better confidence in his stuff. If this is the case, it could be the sign of very good things to come. Gee’s last three starts: 19H, 3 ER, 3BB, 26K over 21 innings.
> Lucas Duda had a great game against Shelby Miller, knocking his eleventh home run along with an RBI single in the first.
> The middle of the Mets’ order (Wright, Murphy, Duda, Byrd) went a combined 6-14 with three home runs, a double, and 5 RBI to produce the entire offensive output.
> I’ve worn the same outfit for each of Gee’s last three starts. Needless to say, this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.
> Kirk Nieuwenhuis is 0-fer since returning from AAA Las Vegas, and Omar Quintanilla collected a golden sombrero to snap his eight-game hitting streak.
No slight to Jeremy Hefner, but Dillon Gee has been making a fantastic case to stick in the Mets’ rotation. His past three starts have been nothing short of fantastic. It took a small while, but it seems like Dillon has gotten back on the track he was on last year. Good K/BB ratio, plenty of ground balls, and pounding the strike zone. Both pitchers will get another start before any decisions are made, but the scales are beginning to tip strongly in Gee’s favor.
Great effort by the 3-6 hitters tonight, knocking three home runs and getting all six of the Mets hits. Wright, Murph, the Dude and the Word have been the four best hitters on the Mets this season, and they showed up against one of the best teams in the National League. Amid a desperate search for offense, it will be great for their bats to collectively heat up. Between Wright and Murphy’s consistency, and Byrd and Duda both hitting for power, they can form a formidable middle-of-the-lineup as they showed tonight.
The Mets go for the series win tomorrow afternoon, with Matt Harvey squaring up against Adam Wainwright. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10, but with anywhere between 1.5 to 5 inches of rain in the forecast, it most likely won’t be. [Fun fact: the Mets have more rain/snow-outs this year (six) than Matt Harvey has wins (five).]