- Kieran Darcy, ESPN Staff Writer
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Maybe the Mets do have more than two starting pitchers?
The Amazin's had been 7-1 in games started by Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese, and 1-7 in game started by anybody else. But Dillon Gee -- 0-3 with an 8.36 ERA in his first three outings of the season -- pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings on Sunday, earning a win in the Mets' 2-0 victory over the Nationals.
"I think he needed it bad," said manager Terry Collins. "I think it’s a great confidence builder for him. Very, very good lineup, very good team -- to get deep in the game like he did, I think it’s really gotta help him."
New York Mets
Gee gave up back-to-back two-out singles to Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche in the top of the first and needed 26 pitches to emerge from that inning unscathed. But in the next four frames, he retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced, allowing only a third-inning single by Jayson Werth.
Gee's fastball lived in the high 80s, yet he had six strikeouts. The game plan was to throw more changeups, and it worked.
"He just kept them off balance with the off-speed stuff," Collins said.
Gee said there were two reasons he threw fewer changeups in his last start, in Colorado last week. One was the cold weather, which affected his ability to grip the baseball properly. The other was that he nicked up his changeup finger in a "mishap with the treadmill" in Philadelphia the week before.
"Today it felt better, and I was able to throw the changeup," he said.
Gee tired in the sixth inning -- after not walking a single batter though five, he gave a free pass to Denard Span to start the sixth. Span was thrown out on the base paths, but then Gee issued two more freebies, and Collins took the ball from him after 98 pitches.
The bullpen, which had the worst ERA in the major leagues entering the game (5.47), came through this time around. Latroy Hawkins struck Ian Desmond out looking to end the sixth, and then Brandon Lyon, Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell each threw a scoreless inning to close out the victory.
For Gee, it's not just his first win of the season -- it's his first since last July 7. He missed the entire second half of last season after suddenly experiencing numbness in his fingers during the All-Star break, which led to the diagnosis of a damaged artery in his pitching shoulder, and subsequent surgery.
Some wondered whether Gee's career was in jeopardy following the unusual injury. But Gee said he feels fine, and that last year's injury and surgery has been a "non-factor" when it comes to his early-season struggles in 2013.
"It’s really been eating away at me for the last few weeks, not going out there and doing my job," Gee said. "So it feels good to contribute, and do my part."
If Gee can return to the level he was pitching at prior to the injury -- remember, he was 13-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 27 starts in 2011 -- the Mets' rotation appears to be in much better shape.
"We’re counting on Dillon Gee," Collins said. "When we left spring training, when you’re the No. 3 guy, that’s a pretty big role to fill. And we know when Dillon Gee, when he’s got command of his stuff, he can pitch and he can pitch against anybody. And today I just thought was a huge start for him."