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.
GOING TO NEW YORK — Pittsburgh Pirates All-Stars pose for a photo before Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the New York Mets at PNC Park. From left, relief pitcher Mark Melancon, center fielder Andrew McCutchen, starting pitcher Jeff Locke, relief pitcher Jason Grilli and third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
-- Associated Press
"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. "I just wanted to throw a lot of strikes after that and keep them off-balance."
Gee (7-7) allowed just one unearned run in 6 innings to the Pirates (56-37), who entered the day tied with St. Louis for the best record in the major leagues and the National League Central lead.
Gee is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in five career starts against Pittsburgh. He scattered five hits, struck out two and walked one.
"It's just sometimes this is the way it works out," Gee said of his success against the Pirates. "They're a really good team. I was just trying to throw strikes with all my pitches and just keep them off balance. And it worked out."
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 today."
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. The Mets will host the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
"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 on Tuesday. "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 this start on 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 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 also 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.
NOTES: Collins said the blister on RHP Matt Harvey's right index finger has healed and he will be able to pitch in the All-Star game. Harvey is a prime contender to be the NL's starting pitcher on Tuesday despite being scratched from his scheduled start Saturday against the Pirates because of the blister and to limit his innings this season. ... Pittsburgh RHP Mark Melancon was added as injury replacement to the NL All-Star roster. That gives the Pirates a five-man All-Star contingent, their largest since 1972. Melancon joins Locke, RHP Jason Grilli, 3B Pedro Alvarez and McCutchen. ... Locke said he expects to make his next start Sunday at Cincinnati.