NEW YORK -- With Zack Wheeler on pace to join the New York Mets' rotation next week, manager Terry Collins has the task of figuring out which of the current starters will be demoted to make room for the club's top prospect.
But the better Dillon Gee pitches -- and the worse the weather gets -- the more time Collins will get to put off that decision.
Gee produced his third straight sterling start and Lucas Duda, David Wright and Marlon Byrd all hit solo homers Wednesday night as the New York Mets enjoyed a rare easy home win by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-1, in front of 23,331 at Citi Field.
Gee appeared to be the likeliest candidate for a demotion -- either to the bullpen or to Triple-A -- when he fell to 1-6 with a 6.34 ERA after allowing five runs in five innings against the Braves on May 25.
But Gee -- who allowed one run on six hits and two walks while striking out seven over 6 1/3 innings on Wednesday -- is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA (three earned runs in 21 innings), 26 strikeouts and just three walks over his last three starts, a stretch in which he's lowered his ERA to 4.84.
"I think he's back, I really do," Collins said. "I think it's the Dillon Gee we've seen in the past. He's a strike thrower with all his pitches. And when you're up there hitting, you don't know what's coming."
Gee, and the rest of his teammates, know Wheeler is coming Tuesday, when the Mets will need an additional starter for a doubleheader against the Braves. He said Wednesday night that Wheeler's impending arrival hasn't changed his approach on the mound.
"Our job's the same no matter what, who's coming or not coming, or anything like that." Gee said. "We know that he's coming up and all that, but it doesn't matter. Our job's still the same: Just try to go out there and do the best you can."
Collins said before and after the game Wednesday that the Mets will employ a six-man rotation for at least one turn once Wheeler reaches the big leagues.
And with the forecast calling for torrential rains all day Thursday -- when the Mets and Cardinals are scheduled to play the series finale at 1:10 p.m. -- the Mets may get their league-high seventh postponement and give Collins an excuse to keep the six-man rotation in place a little bit longer.
The Mets are in the midst of a stretch in which they are scheduled to play 17 games in 17 days. Included in that run is a one-day trip to Colorado to make up a game that was snowed out on April 17.
"We don't know what's going to happen [Thursday], weather-wise," Collins said. "We haven't made any decisions on who Zack may replace in the rotation, if anybody."
The win Wednesday was just the second in nine games for the Mets (24-36) following a four-game sweep of the cross-town Yankees. It was also the first home game in which the Mets scored the winning runs prior to their final at-bat since April 21.
The Mets had just six hits against Shelby Miller and two Cardinals relievers, but they made them count by stringing together three straight two-out hits in a two-run first before Duda, Wright and Byrd hit solo homers in the fourth, sixth and seventh.
Wright, whose double started the first inning rally, finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored while Duda was 2-for-3 with two RBI.
The Mets had leads in each of the first three games on the current eight-game homestand but lost them all.
"We hung in there and we got a couple bigger hits," Collins said. "If we had a couple more hits, we'd be 3-1 in this homestand."
Miller (7-4) allowed a career-high four runs in six innings as his ERA rose from 1.91 to 2.21. He had allowed as many as three runs just three times in his first 13 big league starts.
Even in defeat, he showed the talent that has him leading the NL Rookie of the Year race. Miller allowed only five hits, walked none and struck out 10. It was the second 10-strikeout game of the season for Miller, who whiffed 13 in his one-hit shutout of the Rockies on May 10.
"I felt like I didn't have a terrible night, but [he] made some mistakes and they got some home runs and put up some runs," Miller said. "Simply got out-pitched today."
The Cardinals (42-23) mounted their best threat against Gee in the sixth, when Allen Craig homered with one out. Yadier Molina (3-for-4 with two doubles) followed with a long double to left, but Gee struck out David Freese and Jon Jay to end the inning. Gee pumped his fist as he walked off the mound following the strikeout of Jay.
Freese went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as his career-best 20-game hitting streak ended.
NOTES: In anticipation of Thursday's rain, the Mets' grounds crew put down the tarp immediately after Wednesday's game. ... Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he hadn't made a decision yet on who among rookies Tyler Lyons and Michael Wacha would lose his spot in the rotation when Jake Westbrook returns. He is scheduled to come off the disabled list and start Friday against the Marlins. Lyons had a 3.51 ERA in four starts while Wacha has a 4.58 ERA in three starts. ... Matheny said the Cardinals still were waiting to hear about the appeal they lodged following Tuesday night after Molina's long fly to right was called a two-base error when it was misplayed by Mets right fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The error led to two unearned runs for the Cardinals. Molina entered Wednesday second in the NL in batting average at .351, .002 behind Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki. With a hit Tuesday, Molina's average would have risen to .354. ... Mets right-handed pitcher Scott Atchison, who has been out since May 14 due to right elbow inflammation, threw a scoreless inning Wednesday night for Double-A Binghamton. ... Mets shortstop Omar Quintanilla went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts as his eight-game hitting streak came to an end.