Dillon Gee was masterful, Frank Francisco walked the tight rope and a bunch of doubles were enough for the Mets on Wednesday night.
Gee went seven-and-one-third innings, allowing just two runs on three hits. He walked two and struck out nine in a brilliant outing, at one point retiring 13 in-a-row. He turned it over to the bullpen for the final five outs and they made it worth the price of admission. Six Orioles reached base before those five outs were recorded, but only one scored as the Mets earned a sweep with a 4-3 win over the Baltimore at Citi Field.
Gee’s impressive outing was backed by an offense that lived by the double, mashing four of them — one by Gee himself. Scott Hairston led the way with a pair of two-baggers — the first setting Scott up to score the game’s first run and the second sending home Valdespin with run number two. Hairston finished the game 2-of-4 and is now hitting .351/.383/.714 against lefties this year. David Wright added a RBI double in the sixth that ended up being the difference. Wright was 3-for-4 on the evening, raising his averaged back up to .358.
But despite a solid night from the bats — they sent Orioles starter Brian Matusz to the showers in the fifth — Gee was the story on Wednesday. He got through the first on just seven pitches, retiring the top of the Baltimore lineup in order. He needed just 15 more to get through the second, striking out Matt Wieters and Nick Johnson in the process.
The righthander hit a speed bump in the third inning, after retiring the first two. Pitcher Brian Matusz singled up the middle to keep the inning alive and the hit seemed to get in Gee’s head. He threw the next six pitches out of the strike zone — four straight to walk Brian Roberts and the next two to JJ Hardy — but Hardy lined out to shortstop on a 2-1 offering to end the inning.
The Mets missed opportunities for unearned runs early, as fielding miscues by Baltimore allowed them to put two in scoring position in the first and one more in the third. But all three were stranded. They finally broke through in the fourth and fifth thanks to the big-bat of Hairston.
He led off the bottom of the fourth by ripping a double to left and moved to third on a groundout. A strikeout by Ike Davis put the Mets in danger of stranding a third man on third, but Justin Turner worked back from an 0-2 count to work a walk out of a 10-pitch at-bat. Mike Nickeas followed by lofting a shallow fly to center that glanced off the glove of Adam Jones, bringing home Hairston with the game’s first run.
New York tacked on two runs in the fifth to make it 3-0, as Hairston once again provided the big knock. Valdespin started it with one out as he legged out an infield hit. Wright then blooped a single to left, putting two on for the lefty killer Hairston. Scotty lived up to his reputation, bashing a full count offering from Matusz deep to left. The ball one hopped over the wall, allowing Valdespin to score to make it 2-0.
With Hairston and Wright on second and third and a base open, Matusz walked Vinny Rottino to load the bases for Ike Davis. Ike didn’t have his best night — 0-for-4 with three left on base — but he cued a grounder to short, slow enough that Baltimore couldn’t turn two, permitting Wright to cross with the third run.
It was Wright who drove in the fourth run, splitting the gap in left-center with a sixth inning double to bring home Gee, who had himself doubled earlier in the inning.
Following the third inning walk to Roberts, Gee retired the next 13 batters consecutively mowing through the Baltimore lineup with four strikeouts over the next four innings to bring his tally to eight for the evening. Gee’s bid for a shutout was broken up in the eighth when Nick Johnson broke up the string of 13 straight retired by Gee with an infield hit. Wilson Betemit followed by crushing a bomb into the upper deck in right to cut the Mets lead in half.
After Gee struck out Steve Tolleson — his ninth K of the night — he issued a walk to Steve Pearce, forcing Terry Collins to go to the bullpen with the tying run at the plate. Bobby Parnell started his evening by allowing a single to Brian Roberts. But JJ Hardy ran into his own dribbler in front of the plate for the second out and Chris Davis flew out to the warning track, allowing Parnell to escape the inning without further damage.
Frank Francisco made it interesting in the ninth with two hits and two walks, allowing the tying run to reach third, before getting Brian Roberts to tap a grounder to second that Valdespin fielded cleanly and fired to Ike Davis to end the game.
Game Ball: David Wright and Scott Hairston are candidates for their big hits that put the Mets in position to win, but the ball falls to Dillon Gee. Gee’s outing completed a great series from Mets starters, who allowed just two runs in 22 and 1/3 innings against Baltimore. Gee was often times dominant and most importantly missed plenty of bats. Some of his numbers don’t show it, but he has been solid for most of this season and appears to have transformed from a placeholder fifth starter into a legitimate rotation piece.
Turning Point: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over and this one didn’t turn the final time until Brian Roberts’ grounder found its way from Jordany Valdespin’s hand to Ike Davis’ glove to put it in the books.
Next Game: The Mets get Thursday off before starting a three-game series against the Yankees at Citi Field on Friday night. The last Subway Series was a nightmare for the Mets, but perhaps a series at home can turn the tide. Jon Niese (4-3, 3.82 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 74 K) will be on the mound for the Mets, to face Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.77 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 46 K). The last time the two faced off, two Sundays ago in the Bronx, Niese outpitched Pettitte, only to be betrayed by his defense and bullpen in a 5-4 Mets loss. First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. and the game can be seen on PIX 11 or heard on WFAN 660 AM.