When the Mets named Dillon Gee their Opening Day starter, even Gee admitted that the assignment was "by default." Had either Matt Harvey or Jon Niese been healthy, the team assuredly would have used one of those two pitchers for its first game of the season.
Five and a half weeks later, it's clear there's no longer anything nominal about Gee's role as staff ace. Since April 12, Gee ranks first in the Majors with a 0.67 ERA, thanks in large part to the 16-inning scoreless streak he will take into Saturday's game against the Phillies.
"My goal out there every day is to eat innings and try to put us in a position to win games," Gee said.
Sounds simple, but Gee has been doing it better than most anyone in baseball. Since giving up four runs in Anaheim on April 11 in his worst start of the year, Gee has held his opponent scoreless in three of four outings. He even blanked the Rockies for six innings at Coors Field last time out -- something virtually no pitcher has been able to do this season.
Gee's greatest challenge may be receiving any sort of offensive support from a lineup that has struggled all season, snapping a 23-inning scoreless streak in the first inning Friday. That may prove difficult against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, who has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his six starts -- but who can empathize all too well with Gee. Kendrick is in the midst of an eight-game losing streak dating to Aug. 11, 2013, thanks in large part to the league's fifth-worst run support (2.39 runs per game) over that stretch. The Phillies' bullpen has blown three of his potential wins.
"The record is kind of out of your control sometimes," Kendrick said. "You just want to go out there, take the ball every fifth day, give your team a chance to win, make your starts and be healthy. That's the main thing. Obviously, you want to win the game -- that's why you play -- but some of those as a starting pitcher are out of your control."
Phillies: Brignac looking to pitch in
Seeking more offensive production from their bench, the Phillies selected the contract of veteran infielder Reid Brignac prior to Friday night's game, replacing Freddy Galvis on the roster.
Though Brignac was not in Friday's starting lineup, manager Ryne Sandberg said he expects to use the infielder regularly. The Phillies also are optimistic Brignac can provide some pop for a group that has struggled, considering his .284 batting average with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 30 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Galvis, by contrast, hit safely just twice in 42 at-bats with the Phillies.
"He's had some power the last week that's been impressive," Sandberg said of Brignac, who hit two home runs in his final game with Lehigh Valley. "That's the reason that he's here now. He's been pretty consistent, but he's been a hot bat lately from the left side and he's also a veteran infielder."
Brignac is a six-year veteran with the Rays, Rockies and Yankees, appearing in 46 games with the latter two teams last season.
Mets: Flores making his case at short
The Mets officially recalled Wilmer Flores from Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday, with plans to start him regularly over Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Though Flores had not played the position for two years prior to this season, the Mets were intrigued by his offensive potential and disappointed with Tejada's production.
"Don't mistake it -- we're hoping Wilmer gives us some offense," manager Terry Collins said. "But he's got to catch the baseball, too."
Flores did that Friday, making routine plays at short and even diving up the middle to knock down Chase Utley's single in the first. He finished 2-for-5 at the plate.
• Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson has reached base safely in 14 of his last 15 games, with seven RBIs in his last seven. Granderson also leads the team with 16 walks.
• Jimmy Rollins started Friday's game at shortstop after serving as the Phillies' designated hitter during the previous two in Toronto. It was Rollins' first game in the field since tweaking his right groin five days earlier.
• Mets farmhands Allan Dykstra, Zach Lutz, Taylor Teagarden and Brandon Allen hit four consecutive homers for Triple-A Las Vegas in a 16-4 win Thursday night at Tucson. The four home runs, which tied a Pacific Coast League record, came over a span of six pitches.