NEW YORK -- With injured ace Johan Santana scheduled to have shoulder surgery Tuesday that could keep him out for the start of next season, Dillon Gee is pitching his way into consideration for a spot in the New York Mets' 2011 rotation.
Nick Evans is using his infrequent opportunities to appeal for a place on the big league roster, too.
Whether it's taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his first major league start or fighting through a lack of command against Pittsburgh for six innings of five-hit ball, Gee has gotten the job done. His manager is taking notice -- despite saying before the game that September auditions are not good indicators of success.
"When you throw shutout innings, it has to translate into something positive," Jerry Manuel said. "He has a chance to be a real decent pitcher at this level."
Evans, with three hits in 11 at-bats this season, drove in Ruben Tejada, a .188 hitter who had a one-out double. Jose Tabata fielded Evans' hit off Park (1-2) in shallow left, but his throw was off line and Tejada scored easily.
"It's good to get in there and help contribute to the game," Evans said. "I'd love to be given the opportunity" to be a role player on the team.
Thole threw out a runner trying to steal in the ninth and then nailed Andrew McCutchen at third trying to advance on a bunt in the 10th. McCutchen led off the inning with a double.
"He's made some very, very good throws to second base," Manuel said. "He's evolving as one of the young leaders of the team."
Elsewhere on the local sports docket, the New York Jets were playing their NFL season opener on Monday Night Football -- one of several enticing options for fans rather than a rain-delayed matchup between anemic offenses at Citi Field.
In fact, the Mets posted a message on the scoreboard during the second inning inviting the sparse crowd that waited out a 43-minute delay at the start to fill the pricey seats behind the dugouts.
But Takahashi was focused on one thing.
"Even though everybody's kind of interested in the Jets game, I do what I can do for the baseball," he said through a translator.
Those who did make it to the Mets game saw two young pitchers, Gee and Pittsburgh's James McDonald, make promising starts.
Starting in place of Santana last Tuesday, Gee took a no-hitter into the sixth against Washington in his major league debut. He wasn't quite that effective against the worst-hitting team in the National League. Using a deceptive changeup, the right-hander gave up five hits -- two weak doubles just inside third-base line -- and walked four, one intentionally. He put runners on base in five innings and loaded them in the fourth.
"It just seemed like when I got some guys on I could locate it inside and get some popups," Gee said.
In two starts, Gee has given up one run and seven hits in 13 innings.
McDonald was coming off seven innings of five-hit ball against Atlanta, beating Braves ace Tim Hudson to win for the first time in four starts. McDonald went a career-high eight innings this time, scattering five hits and getting help from two caught stealings.
"James did a great job. Really battled," Pirates manager John Russell said. "He's got the stuff. ... He's able to keep his pitch count low now and when he does that, he's really grown."
A group of Pedro Alvarez fans wearing yellow Pirates T-shirts with his name and number on the back stood and cheered the New Yorker with every at-bat. Alvarez, who went to a private high school in New York, was playing his first big league game in the Big Apple.
Alvarez's parents brought the team chicken, rice and beans from a popular restaurant in Washington Heights, the heavily Dominican neighborhood in northern Manhattan where Alvarez grew up. He went 0-for-3 with a walk.
The Pirates claimed right-hander Chris Leroux off waivers from the Florida Marlins and designated righty reliever Brian Bass for assignment. Leroux was added to the 40-man roster. ... Mets left fielder Lucas Duda went 0-for-3 and has one hit in his first 32 big league at-bats. ... The Mets are 5-2 in 1-0 games this season. ... Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker went 0-for-3 with two walks, snapping his 18-game hitting streak.
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