Dillon Gee expected to pitch this well in his return from the disabled list. What surprised him was the new attitude in the New York Mets clubhouse.
David Wright ignited a tiebreaking rally in the seventh with a hustle double, Travis d'Arnaud gave Gee some cushion with a two-run drive later in the inning and New York beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Wednesday night for its first four-game winning streak in a year.
In his first start in two months, Gee (4-1) pitched seven-plus dominant innings as the Mets won the first three of a four-game series against the Braves less than two weeks after being swept in Atlanta.
"It's very different," Gee said. "Guys are having a lot of fun."
The mood is shifting in the visitor's clubhouse, too.
The Braves went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in their fourth straight loss, dropping them a game behind first-place Washington in the NL East after surging to the top of the division with a nine-game winning streak.
Atlanta has scored just eight runs over the skid and is 5 for 38 (.132) with runners in scoring position over that span.
"When we were winning nine in a row we were driving in the runs in situational hitting," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Obviously we are not doing that now."
D'Arnaud's long ball in the seventh came two pitches after Kirk Nieuwenhuis gave New York the lead with a sacrifice fly. The drive to left field off Ervin Santana (7-6) gave New York a homer in nine straight games at Citi Field, a team record for the stadium that opened in 2009.
Wright hit a lazy liner to left-center leading off the seventh. He slowed as he made the turn at first but then took off when he saw left fielder Justin Upton make a lackadaisical attempt to get it back in, flopping into second as Upton's late throw sailed toward the Mets dugout. Wright advanced on Lucas Duda's fly to right.
"Tremendous job running the bases," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Heads up play."
Duda gave the Mets an early lead with a two-out RBI single in the first. B.J Upton's RBI double in the fifth tied it 1-all. Santana scored after reaching on an infield single.
In between, both starters were particularly stingy, allowing three baserunners total between the second and fifth innings. All three were wiped out by double plays — two by the Mets.
Activated from the disabled list to make the start, Gee slid into the rotation slot left open when Jonathon Niese went on the DL on Sunday because of a left shoulder strain.
The 28-year-old Gee was on quite a roll when he strained his right lat May 10, going 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA in his last five starts.
Back on the mound with a scruffy beard Wednesday, he was just as good.
"I felt like I was making my debut all over again," Gee said.
Gee faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings. A walk to leadoff batter B.J. Upton was wiped out by a caught stealing — after a replay review. New Jersey native Tommy La Stella opened the third with a single but Gerald Laird grounded into a double play.
"He was sailing along about as good as you can possibly do. He made pitch after pitch," Collins said. "That's the Dillon Gee we have known to love."
Gee was lifted in the eighth with runners on first and second and no outs having thrown 88 pitches. He allowed six hits, a walk and struck out four.
Vic Black then got three outs to quash the rally. Jenrry Mejia gave up two hits and threw a two-out wild pitch in the ninth before striking out La Stella to loud cheers from the sparse crowd for his ninth save in 11 chances.
Santana was equally tough into the seventh. After allowing a double to Daniel Murphy and Duda's RBI hit in the first, he yielded just one hit until Wright doubled.
"It was a great game for both sides," Santana said. "When it is a game like that it is only going to be one way, whoever makes the first mistake, that is going to be the game right there."
He allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings. Coming in, the Mets had just one run in 15 innings this season against Santana.
NOTES: The Mets optioned RHP Gonzalez Germen to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Gee. ... Gonzalez said about Braves C Evan Gattis (back), "I don't see him being ready to play" right after the All-Star break next week. ... Up next: Atlanta's Aaron Harang (8-6) and New York's Bartolo Colon (8-7) face off in the finale of the four-game series.