WASHINGTON (AP) – For teams like the New York Mets and Washington Nationals that are out of the playoff picture, September is a time to call up minor leaguers to give them some major league experience.
Tuesday night’s game at Nationals Park features two pitchers making their major league debuts when New York’s Dillon Gee and Washington’s Yunesky Maya square off.
This will be just the fifth time since 1980 two starting pitchers make their big league debut in the same game. The last time it happened was April 9, 2009, when Detroit’s Rick Porcello and Toronto’s Ricky Romero opposed one another.
The Mets (67-71), losers of six of eight, called up Gee from Triple-A Buffalo to take the place in the rotation of staff ace Johan Santana, who left Thursday’s win over Atlanta after five innings with a strained left pectoral muscle.
Gee went 13-8 with a 4.96 ERA in 28 starts for the Bisons after appearing in just nine games last season because of a torn right labrum. The 24-year-old right-hander set a franchise record with 165 strikeouts while walking 41 in 161 1-3 innings.
“This year has been unbelievable and especially to end it here,” Gee said. “The main goal was just to go out this year and prove that I’m healthy again and I can still pitch, and I think I proved that.”
Maya is a Cuban defector who signed a four-year contract with the Nationals (60-78) on Aug. 3.
The 29-year-old right-hander, who pitched for Cuba in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics, was 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts at three different minor league levels. In two outings for Triple-A Syracuse, he allowed two runs while striking out nine over 10 1-3 innings.
“I felt good in the minors,” Maya told the Nationals’ official website through an interpreter. “My arm is at 100 percent, and I feel really good. It’s a hard league in Triple-A, with a lot of veteran hitters that are pretty selective. I faced pretty tough hitters, but I felt pretty good.”
Another Washington rookie helped lead the Nationals to a 13-3 victory over New York in Monday’s series opener.
Rookie Danny Espinosa, called up from Triple-A on Wednesday, drove in six runs, hitting a grand slam, a solo homer and getting two other hits. The shortstop is batting .563 with three home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs in just five games.
“To have this kind of start is unbelievable,” Espinosa said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. All the emotions are going through me. It’s crazy.”
With Espinosa in the lineup, Washington’s offense has suddenly come to life, plating at least eight runs in four of five games
The Nationals have won three in a row and notched their 60th victory Monday, eclipsing the total of 59 from each of the last two seasons.
“It’s one of those days where you really feel good about where your organization is going,” Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. “We want to raise the bar a little higher than that, but it’s a step.”
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