NEW YORK -- Prior to Monday night's series opener with the Pirates, manager Jerry Manuel was asked how he copes with the final weeks of a non-contending season in front of increasingly sparse crowds.
Manuel mentioned youth and its accompanying excitement -- the thrill of a youngster making an impact on the Major League stage.
Monday night's ensuing 1-0, 10-inning victory over Pittsburgh focused a spotlight on the Mets' future. Dillon Gee, in his second Major League start, shut the Pirates out for six innings despite being, in his own words, a little off. Josh Thole behind the plate stymied a pair of Pittsburgh threats with a caught stealing in the ninth and an aggressive play on a bunt in the 10th. Ruben Tejada, who had hit just .136 over the last 2 1/2 months, lined a double down the left-field line to start a rally in the 10th, and Nick Evans delivered a pinch-hit single to left to win it.
"It's fun to come up in a big spot and help produce," said Evans, who, according to his manager, will get his first two starts of the season on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Evans' heroics handed the Mets their sixth walk-off win of 2010 and halted a 19-inning scoreless streak.
The star attraction this night, though, was Gee, the headline writer's dream who fans endured a 43-minute rain delay to see. Gee had no-hit the Nats for five frames in his first start, and he managed to be better in the box score the second time around, despite having considerably less command on the mound.
Compared to his first start, Gee lasted one less inning while allowing three more hits and one more walk. But he also gave up one fewer run.
"I had too many walks and was behind a lot of guys," Gee said. "I made some decent pitches when I had to. I was fortunate enough to get outs when I really needed them. This easily could have gone the other way."
It didn't, however, because of Gee's ability to extricate himself from trouble. He stranded the bases loaded in the fourth, runners on the corners in the first and fifth and single runners in the second and sixth. His hits column was seldom clean; the runs column always was.
"We hit some balls pretty hard and deep that in this ballpark are outs," Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. "We had some opportunities early, but we just couldn't get that big hit."
Gee was simultaneously upset by his lack of command and encouraged by his perseverance.
"It's definitely a positive step in the right direction, that I can go out there without my best stuff and find a way to get some people out," said Gee, who added with a smile that he's "pretty happy" with his 13 innings of one-run ball in two big league starts.
So is his manager.
"When you throw shutout innings, it has to translate into something positive," said Manuel, who earlier in the day cautioned against reading too much into September performances. "It'd be difficult if the club left next year, and he continues to do what he does, and he wouldn't be one of the guys in the rotation."
Gee, though, earned his official initiation into the Mets' pitching fraternity by completing their main hazing ritual -- namely, receiving a no-decision despite six shutout innings. The Mets' offense could muster no threats of its own against James McDonald, who tossed a career-high eight shutout innings for a no-decision himself.
The New York bullpen was spotless until Hisanori Takahashi issued a free pass to Chris Snyder in the ninth, but Thole promptly cut down pinch-runner Alex Presley trying to swipe second. In the 10th, after Andrew McCutchen led off with a double, Thole snatched Jose Tabata's bunt and nailed the lead runner at third to short-circuit the inning.
"Everyone in the ballpark knew he was bunting. I knew if I was going to get it, I was going to make a play at third base," Thole said. "You have to take a shot. We're trying to win this ballgame."
That set the stage for Thole's contemporaries to do just that in the bottom half of the inning off Chan Ho Park, sending the resilient crowd of 24,384 home happy.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.