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Gee 'absolutely awesome' in return from DL

NEW YORK -- Dillon Gee returned, and it was just like April.

For him, and perhaps for the New York Mets, too.

It may be hard to remember now, but the Mets went 15-11 in the season's first month, playing well enough that they could talk themselves into believing they'd be better than advertised. That feels like a long time ago, but then again, so does Gee's last start before he headed to the disabled list.

He came back Wednesday night, came back looking like the same guy who had a 1.36 ERA in the five starts just before he went on the DL. And he came back to a team that has suddenly regained some of that feeling that this season won't necessarily be a lost cause.

Gee pitched the Mets to a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, giving the team its first four-game winning streak in nearly a year, and helping invigorate a clubhouse that has life again.

"I've been gone so long," said Gee, who was sidelined with a strained right lat. "I don't know what they were going through. I just know it's nice now. I know we're expecting to win."

The Mets are still seven games under .500, and they're still eight games out of first place (with the Washington Nationals having passed the Braves atop the National League East). But three games into a series that their manager labeled "huge," the Mets have yet to lose.

They're getting some big hits they didn't get for weeks, with Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud contributing two big ones Wednesday. They're hitting in situations, too, like when Kirk Nieuwenhuis' sacrifice fly broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning.

But the big takeaway from this one was the performance of Gee, who was so good that he never even got to his 90-95 pitch limit. Gee made it through the first five innings on just 49 pitches, and departed after giving up two singles to begin the eighth inning.

Facing the free-swinging Braves no doubt helped, but Gee's command was so good that the Braves had little reason to take.

"Incredible," said reliever Vic Black, who got Gee out of that eighth inning. "We assumed he was on a pitch count, but then it was, 'Oh my gosh, it's the sixth inning already and we haven't moved [in the bullpen].'

"Awesome. Absolutely awesome."

Gee had spoken with excitement in the days leading up to this start, and he said after the game that "it felt like I was making my debut all over again."

But he also said that he wasn't shocked to return with such good command, because of the way he pitched Friday in a rehab start for Brooklyn. Sure enough, the only walk Gee issued Wednesday was to the first batter he faced. It was one of the few times all night that he was even behind in the count.

"He made pitch after pitch," manager Terry Collins said. "It's the Dillon Gee we've known to love. He just locates like crazy."

It was the Dillon Gee the Mets saw in late April. It's almost like the last two months didn't happen.

And don't the Mets wish they hadn't.