Mets’ nine game road trip is off to a good start after they salvaged the rubber game of a three game series beating Atlanta 6-4. The bullpen was superb tallying nine scoreless innings versus the Braves, a stark difference from the opening series against the Nationals. While the bullpen’s season-long success is still very much unknown and hard to predict, the starting staff’s productivity appears to be reliable. Through nine games, the starters have pitched into the sixth all but once, and given the team the opportunity to win every game. The results haven’t been dominating by any means, but consistent nonetheless. Bartolo Colon’s seven inning gem Tuesday night was an encouraging jolt for the Mets pitching staff after some “heavy lifting” for the bullpen in the previous series. The rotation will need their other veterans, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese, to show some of that durable production Colon has foreshadowed if the team will have any sustained success early in the season.
Gee emerged last year as a reliable pitcher, a notion that would seem farfetched if you watched him the first quarter of the season. After accumulating career highs in IP, SO, and ERA last season, Gee was tabbed with the opening day start and unspoken task of becoming a leader of the pitching staff going forward. In his first two starts, Gee’s final inning, or final pitch for that matter, has been his downfall. On Opening Day, Gee pitched terrific through six before laboring in the seventh thus relinquishing the lead. Last Saturday against the Reds, Gee was just as good, dominating at times through seven innings before rendering a go-ahead homerun in the eighth inning. Through two games he has yielded 7 ER in 14 IP; however four of those ERs occurred on or as a resultof his last pitch. Nitpicking, ok maybe, but what separates the good from the great starters are the ones that finish strong and deep into games with the lead. Gee has done it in the past, especially last year, but this year he’s fallen short. With all the young pitchers these days on pitch counts, Gee will be relied on to log big innings, especially when you consider Niese’s injury history.
Gee has never been a big prospect within the organization, but has exceeded at each level, almost overachieving. Last season, in his last 22 starts, Gee tallied 149.1 IP, 2.71 ERA and 15 quality starts. He pitched like an ace, even when everyone thought he was destined for the bullpen months earlier. Fans and coaches’desire for Gee to build on that success is not unreasonable despite whatever lower expectations were deemed years earlier. Who’s to say he can’t keep getting better? Tonight’s start against the Angels will be a good test for Gee. The goal is to keep the Mets positive mojo going by pitching seven solid innings with the lead,culminating with that last pitch being an out.