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Lowly Mets Open Series Vs. Pittsburgh

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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NEW YORK (AP) — 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.

“That went better than expected. I kind of blacked out, I think,” said Gee, who went 13-8 with a 4.96 ERA at Buffalo this season and led Triple-A with 165 strikeouts. “I don’t know what happened out there.”

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.

“I’m not really thinking about (the innings) right now because I’m still feeling strong,” Gee told MLB.com. “They just told me to be honest with them if I feel like I’m hurting or if I hit a wall.”

It took only one hit for Pittsburgh to get a rare road win Sunday. Andrew McCutchen delivered a three-run double with the Pirates trailing 1-0 in the ninth inning at Cincinnati, and Joel Hanrahan closed out the 3-1 win.

“We battled the whole game,” McCutchen said. “We got to their bullpen and pretty much took advantage.”

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 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 three-run homer the key blow.

Wright and the Mets couldn’t provide any offensive fireworks Sunday. The third baseman struck out in all three at-bats as Roy Oswalt tossed a four-hitter in Philadelphia’s 3-0 road victory.

New York outscored Pittsburgh 25-8 in a three-game sweep May 8-10, 2009, the Pirates’ first visit to Citi Field.

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