NEW YORK (AP) — Missing most of their regulars, including Jose Reyes, the New York Mets got pesky at the plate.
Josh Thole hit a tiebreaking double in the seventh inning and the depleted Mets, playing with a makeshift lineup minus their sweet-swinging leadoff man, beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-3 on Monday night.
“They just tried to put good swings on the ball. They’ll take singles, if that’s all they can get,” New York manager Terry Collins said.
Dillon Gee (5-0) pitched seven solid innings, striking out a career-high eight in the rookie’s latest impressive outing. The Mets also had another productive day on offense even though they’ve gone nine games without a home run — their longest drought since a nine-game stretch in June 1982.
New York banged out a season-high 17 hits Sunday to prevent a three-game sweep by Philadelphia, then followed up with 15 against starter Charlie Morton and the Pirates.
“We’ll try to ride this wave as long as we can,” Thole said.
This time, the Mets did their damage with only three regulars in the lineup for the opener of a four-game series. Reyes was placed on the bereavement list earlier in the day following his grandmother’s death and left fielder Jason Bay was given a planned day off.
The only projected starters in the lineup were Thole, right fielder Carlos Beltran and center fielder Angel Pagan. Third baseman David Wright and first baseman Ike Davis are on the disabled list.
No problem, apparently. Daniel Murphy had three hits for the second consecutive day, while Pagan and fill-in shortstop Ruben Tejada also had three singles apiece.
“It’s been fun to watch, I can tell you — the big hits,” Collins said. “I just think these guys have rallied around each other and said, ‘Look, we’ve got to go do it ourselves.’ And they’ve hung in there and played hard and played good defense.”
Chris Snyder hit a two-run homer in the second inning for the Pirates, who dropped to 0-8 at Citi Field. He helped give back those runs, however, with a pair of passed balls in the bottom half.
With the score tied at 3, Beltran drew a four-pitch walk from Daniel McCutchen (1-1) to start the seventh. Murphy followed with a single and, one out later, Thole doubled home both runners with a drive to deep right-center.
The young catcher clapped his hands after rounding second base, and the Mets had a 5-3 lead. Thole matched his career high with three RBIs on Sunday — after beginning the day batting .182 with runners in scoring position.
McCutchen entered with a 0.40 ERA, the lowest among NL relievers.
“The biggest thing for me in that situation was I was just trying to get the ball up in the air,” Thole said. “I hit the ball on the ground enough tonight, I said. I was going to try to get one to the outfield and it just fell in the gap.”
Jason Isringhausen pitched a perfect eighth and Francisco Rodriguez worked a scoreless ninth — with help from Pagan, who made a terrific catch just in front of the fence near the 415-foot marker to rob Neil Walker of extra bases.
“I asked him, ‘Is that the guy I’ve been waiting to see?'” Collins said.
Gee allowed three runs and five hits while walking none in a matchup of young starters who have enjoyed early success this season. The right-hander retired nine in a row after Snyder’s homer, including five straight strikeouts, and did not allow a ball out of the infield before Ronny Cedeno’s one-out single in the fifth.
“It’s nice to have those strikeouts. It’s not because I was going for it, it just happened tonight,” Gee said. “My changeup was pretty good tonight and I was throwing fastball-changeup all night and it worked out.”
The Mets are 7-0 in Gee’s starts, making him the only major league pitcher who has made at least five starts this season without his team losing any of them.
“For a guy who’s that young, at this level, nothing bothers him. He gets the ball back and keeps pitching,” Collins said. “I actually thought his stuff and his command got better from the fourth inning on.”
Morton went six innings, giving up a career-high 11 hits but only three runs — one earned. He struck out four and walked none.
“I noticed that they weren’t really trying to do too much, and that’s the kind of lineup that’s tough,” Morton said. “I think I did a good job of minimizing it, but at the same time it makes it a long night.”
Pirates starters have gone 11 consecutive games without allowing more than two earned runs.
Thole’s double was New York’s first extra-base hit. Justin Turner added an RBI double in the eighth off Daniel Moskos and scored on Murphy’s groundout to make it 7-3.
“They just him ’em where we weren’t. I think they got eight groundball hits,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
NOTES: Pittsburgh put catcher Ryan Doumit (left ankle sprain) and infielder Steve Pearce (right calf strain) on the 15-day disabled list and selected the contracts of catcher Dusty Brown and infielder Josh Harrison from Triple-A Indianapolis. RHP Ross Ohlendorf was transferred from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. … With Reyes out, Tejada moved from 2B to SS and Turner shifted back to 2B. Willie Harris started at third and batted leadoff. He made a leaping catch and a diving play on defense.