PITTSBURGH — By the way he pitched, you never would have known that Dillon Gee’s feet hurt.
The New York Mets right-hander developed blisters on the soles of his feet Sunday during an 87-degree afternoon. It was so warm that the dirt on the mound baked in the sun.
However, Gee overcame the blisters and pitched another gem against the Pirates. John Buck hit a two-run single during a three-run first inning to lead the Mets to a 4-2 win, and New York avoided a sweep by Pittsburgh before the All-Star break.
“Stuff-wise, it probably wasn’t the best day, but I just tried to throw a lot of strikes, especially after the guys got us out to an early lead and set the tone out there the first inning against a good pitcher,” Gee said.
Gee (7-7) allowed just one unearned run in 6 2-3 innings to the Pirates (56-37), who fell a game behind St. Louis in the NL Central. He is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in five career starts against Pittsburgh. He scattered five hits, struck out two and walked one.
After having to use his bullpen for eight innings in the first two games of the series, New York manager Terry Collins was happy to see Gee pitch into the seventh.
“We needed to get innings, we needed to get him deep into the game, and he gave us that,” Collins said. “He was exhausted. His foot was bothering him. But he gave us everything we needed.”
Buck’s hit capped a three-run first inning against fill-in starter Gerrit Cole (4-3), who lost his third straight start after becoming the first Pirates pitcher since Nick Maddox in 1907 to win the first four of his career.
Buck, Eric Young Jr. and Marlon Byrd each had three hits for New York, which finished a 6-3 road trip.
“It’s nice that we’ve kind of proven to ourselves we can have a little more confidence moving to the second half, but there’s still a long ways to go,” said Mets third baseman David Wright, who will start for the NL. “We did have a nice month after a couple of pretty bad months. It’s nice to be progressively getting better so hopefully the best is yet to come and we continue that trend.”
Bobby Parnell earned his 17th save in 20 opportunities with a scoreless ninth despite giving up back-to-back singles to Clint Barmes and pinch-hitter Russell Martin with one out. He got Jordy Mercer to fly out to end the game.
“We continue to fight until the final out,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sometimes I’d like to see us hit the ‘go’ button a little earlier in the game, but we always fight.”
Starling Marte had two hits for the Pirates, whose three-game winning streak was snapped.
Cole surrendered three runs and six hits in five innings with two walks and five strikeouts. He started in place of All-Star left-hander Jeff Locke, who was scratched from the start Saturday because of lower back tightness.
The Mets took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Byrd bounced a run-scoring, ground-rule double into the left-field seats, and Buck lined a two-run single to right.
“I didn’t come out ready to pitch, and that’s inexcusable,” Cole said. “It’s just indefensible. I didn’t give our team a very good chance to win. I put us in position where I had to scratch and claw and so did the rest of the team.”
Marte bounced an RBI double into the seats in the third inning to draw the Pirates within 3-1.
Daniel Murphy tripled in a run in the seventh to restore the Mets’ three-run lead.
Pittsburgh put runners on second and third with none out in the eighth on a single by Mercer and a double by Andrew McCutchen, but the Pirates scored only one run when Jose Tabata grounded out against LaTroy Hawkins.