With their ace out for the season and a playoff spot out of reach, the New York Mets are focused on finding help for the future.
Dillon Gee could be just what they’re looking for.
The right-hander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in winning his dazzling major league debut, an effort he’ll try to replicate Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first start at Citi Field.
Johan Santana left his Sept. 2 start after five innings, and the Mets (70-73) learned the former Cy Young Award winner would need to be shut down early for the second consecutive season - this time for left shoulder surgery.
Gee (1-0, 1.29 ERA) was called up to take his place Tuesday against Washington, and his debut couldn’t have gone much better. He allowed a run and two hits over seven innings, striking out four in a 4-1 victory.
There was some question about whether the 24-year-old would get a second start. Gee has pitched a career-high 168 1-3 innings this season, and New York discussed shutting him down for the year as he’s one season removed from a major shoulder injury.
Instead, he’ll get a crack at the visiting Pirates (48-94), last in the NL in batting average at .240.
Pittsburgh, 17-64 on the road, needs three wins in its final 11 away games to avoid matching the 1963 New York Mets for the worst road record in a 162-game season.
The Pirates can take another step toward avoiding that dubious mark if James McDonald (3-5, 4.81) pitches like he did Tuesday. The right-hander held Atlanta to five hits over seven innings in a 5-0 win, beating Braves ace Tim Hudson(notes) to snap a three-start losing streak.
McDonald wasn’t quite ready for the challenge of facing the Mets on Aug. 21 at PNC Park. He gave up five runs, six hits and four walks over five innings of a 5-1 loss, with David Wright’s(notes) three-run homer the key blow.
The Mets entered the season hoping that Mike Pelfrey would emerge as the reliable No. 2 starter behind Johan Santana that the team desperately needed.
In another up and down season, Pelfrey at times appeared to be that pitcher, but he was far from it at other times, a point that Mets manager Jerry Manuel openly admitted as he referred to R.A. Dickey as the only consistent starter other than Santana.
But that may not stop the Mets from asking Pelfrey to be not the No. 2 starter next year, but the staff ace.
With the news that Santana is facing surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule of his left shoulder, a procedure that in its best-case scenario has Santana playing catch again at the start of spring training, the Mets can't count on Santana. Even Santana admitted that he might not be back at all next season.
Dickey has been consistent all year, but it is still the first time he has had a year anything like this in his career and it is hard to imagine the Mets being brave enough to count on a 36-year-old knuckleballer as the top pitcher on the staff.
So could it be Pelfrey? Pelfrey pitched 7 1/3 innings Saturday, winning his 14th game of the season -- a career-high total, topping the 13 he won in 2008.
"He's got a chance to win 15, 16 games this year," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "That'd be a huge thing for him. So there's growth for him. And I feel very confident he can get to that next level."
"We'll see how it pans out," Pelfrey said. "There are two other guys in this rotation (Dickey and Jon Niese) who have had very, very good years. They could be candidates, too. I just want to finish strong, and whatever they decide, whenever that comes, let's go with it."
At Citi Field this season, Pelfrey is 9-3 with a 2.89 ERA.
PHILLIES 3, METS 0: LHP Jon Niese allowed just three runs over seven innings, but Philadelphia RHP Roy Oswalt fired a complete-game four hitter. Oswalt struck out six and walked one. The Mets had no extra-base hits.
--LHP Jon Niese was given an extra day's rest before his start Sunday and he said that it helped his performance, helping him fix his arm slot. He threw seven innings, allowing three runs and striking out six, but took the loss anyway.
--C Josh Thole was 0-for-3 Sunday, snapping a five-game hitting streak. Thole had hit .444 (8-for-18) during those five games.
--OF Lucas Duda grounded out in the eighth inning Sunday, dropping him to .034 (1-for-29) on the season. Duda's lone hit since his promotion from Class AAA Buffalo came on Sept. 3 and he has now gone hitless in his last 18 at-bats.
--RHP Mike Pelfrey won his 14th game Saturday, a new career-high, topping the 13 he won in 2008.
--CF Carlos Beltran was back in the lineup Sunday after just one day off to rest his left knee, which has been bothered by tendinitis -- a result he believes of putting more pressure on his left leg to protect the surgically-repaired right knee. "It's not enough, but what can I do?" Beltran said. "I've played with this before, so I know my body. I know where I am."
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- The number of consecutive winters that Johan Santana will have undergone surgery after finding out this week that he will need surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule on his left shoulder. Santana had surgery to repair a torn meniscus at the end of the 2008 season, then arthroscopic surgery last September to remove bone chips in his left elbow.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you don't have a guy like Johan Santana in your rotation, those kind of guys don't come around. Whether it's through trade or free agency, you have to look at replacing him." -- Mets general manager Omar Minaya, on the potential loss of Johan Santana for the 2011 season.
--CF Carlos Beltran (left knee tendinitis) did not play Sept. 11. He returned to the lineup Sept. 12.
--LHP Johan Santana (sore left shoulder) left the game Sept. 2, and he missed his scheduled start Sept. 7. On Sept. 10, he was diagnosed with a torn anterior capsule of his left shoulder, and will undergo surgery before the season ends. He is out for the year and possibly 2011 as well.
--RHP Francisco Rodriguez (torn ligament in right thumb) is out for the season. According to the Mets, Rodriguez admitted he suffered the injury during the incident Aug. 11 when he was involved in a fight in the family lounge at Citi Field, and as a result the team has placed him on the disqualified list, which means it doesn't want to pay him until he's healthy.
--OF Jason Bay (concussion) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 6. He returned to Citi Field to begin a light workout program on Aug. 27, getting clearance from Mets team doctors to ride a bicycle. Bay said he hopes to return this season but also acknowledged the time constraints could prevent him from doing so.
--INF Fernando Tatis (sprained right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list July 5, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 15.
--RHP John Maine (right rotator cuff tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list May 21, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 2. He began a minor league rehab assignment June 13, but he suffered renewed right shoulder soreness June 18 and was shut down. He had season-ending arthroscopic surgery July 23.
--RHP Kelvim Escobar (right shoulder soreness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 21. He had season-ending surgery May 5.