With Zack Wheeler looming, struggling Dillon Gee knew his rotation spot was in jeopardy.
And if Gee needed more clarity, manager Terry Collins informed him as much in the manager’s office after Gee allowed five fifth-inning runs against the Atlanta Braves last weekend.
“I’m not stupid,” Gee said. “I know that many bad outings in a row, you’re probably hanging on [by] a thread there. But I try not to worry about that stuff. If it happens, it happens.”
The Mets will still have to make room for Wheeler within weeks, but Gee made the decision a little more complicated. He limited the Yankees to one run in 7⅓ innings, struck out a career-high 12 batters and retired the final 15 batters he faced as the Mets completed a Subway Series sweep with a 3-1 win Thursday in the Bronx.
“I needed that on so many levels; it’s crazy,” Gee, who had entered the game with a 6.34 ERA, said.
Said Collins: “I brought him in after his last start because he was sailing through, and then all of a sudden, in the fifth inning hit a wall. My question was: ‘How are you feeling?’
“And he said, ‘I’m really disappointed with the fact that I haven’t been able to be very consistent.’
“That led on to, ‘Are you hurt? If you’re not hurt, it’s got to be something else.’
“Yeah, there was a sense of frustration. And he understood. I said, ‘Look, if there’s a change going to be made, I’m going to possibly have to take you out of the rotation.’
“He said, ‘I don’t blame you. I understand. If you’re not pitching good, something has got to happen.’
“I said, ‘You won 14 games two years ago. If you’re not hurt, it’s still in there.’”
The big difference Thursday? Gee suggested he got aggressive and was not nibbling at the edges of the strike zone and being passive.
“I was pitching timid, especially the last few outings,” Gee said.
New York Mets
Gee said he had no idea about his modest pitch count (88) or his strikeout total (12) when Collins pulled him after his fifth straight strikeout.
Collins said he wanted to get Gee out on a high note after late combustions in other starts. The manager also sensed Gee’s pitches starting to flatten.
So Collins inserted left-hander Scott Rice with one out in the eighth to face pinch hitter Ichiro Suzuki. Collins said there was no way he was going to let Gee face the following two batters -- lefty hitters Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano anyway -- so, at most, the lifting was only one batter premature.
It worked out just fine.
“This guy has had such a tough time in the last month,” Collins said. “I had Scott Rice ready. I knew they were going to hit Ichiro. If he gets on, you’ve got to go to Scott Rice for Gardner and Cano. I mean, Cano is going to have to face the lefty.
“So I just said, ‘You know what? He’s done a tremendous job up to this point.’ I didn’t necessarily like what I saw coming out of his hand in the last inning. He had about a 20-minute inning that he sat on the bench. I just said, ‘I’m going to go with the fresh arm.’”
Collins congratulated Gee at the mound after an eighth-inning strikeout of Reid Brignac ended the right-hander’s outing.
“Finally he told me, ‘Good job,’” Gee said. “He didn’t say ‘finally,’ but he said, ‘good job’ for once when I came out of the game.
“Like I said, I needed that. And I’m just glad to finally be on the side where I helped the team out. … Everybody else is pitching awesome. I just wanted to continue that trend. I didn’t want to be the guy to let everybody down again.”