- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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Forget Mike Pelfrey emerging as a No. 2 starter. He's starting to act like a bona fide ace.
Despite laboring with his control, the New York Mets right-hander upped his scoreless streak to 24 innings Sunday night. That propelled the Mets to a 1-0, rain-shortened victory and sweep of the Atlanta Braves. The Amazins (10-9) moved a game over .500 for the first time since Johan Santana beat Florida Marlins ace Josh Johnson on Opening Day.
Pelfrey, who stranded five Braves on base while requiring 61 pitches to navigate the first two innings, ultimately tossed five scoreless frames. He continued to run with elite company in improving to 4-0 while shaving his ERA to 0.69, best in the majors.
Pelfrey's ERA will match Nolan Ryan's 1970 mark for the best March/April total in franchise history -- assuming Pelfrey doesn't make a second relief appearance in the next four days.
The only other pitchers with unblemished records and a sub-1.00 ERA this season: Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay (4-0, 0.82), Colorado Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (4-0, 0.95) and Chicago Cubs right-hander Carlos Silva (2-0, 0.95).
"I can't say I was pleased with my outing," Pelfrey said. "My command wasn't great, and they did a good job of laying off a lot of pitches. They made me work. I was obviously pretty lucky tonight -- got some huge double plays. Mother Nature was on my side, too. I must be living right or doing something. I got lucky. I didn't think I was very good tonight. I walked five guys."
Pelfrey's 24-inning scoreless streak is the longest by a Met since John Maine had 26 straight scoreless innings in 2006. Jerry Koosman has the franchise record -- 31 2/3 innings in 1973.
"I don't want to pass my buddy," Pelfrey said about Maine. "Maybe I'll give up a run next time."
Pelfrey was in constant trouble, yet did not succumb to the anxiety issues with runners on base that might have consumed him last season.
He had two Braves on base with one out in the third when he coaxed a broken-bat double-play grounder by Atlanta rookie Jason Heyward. In the fifth, Martin Prado greeted Pelfrey with a leadoff double into the right-field corner. Pelfrey crossed the 100-pitch plateau while facing Brian McCann with one out that inning. He ultimately walked McCann -- the lone acceptable walk of the night in his mind since he preferred facing righty-hitting Troy Glaus. Sure enough, Pelfrey escaped by retiring Glaus with a 5-4-3 double play.
Pelfrey departed at that point, with his pitch count at 106. He allowed five hits, walked five and struck out three.
Raul Valdes entered for the sixth, tossed one pitch to Heyward and the tarp came on the field. The game never continued. Because Valdes threw the pitch, Pelfrey was deprived of a complete game.
The lone run came on a throwing error by Braves third baseman Chipper Jones that allowed Jose Reyes to score from second base on a first-inning infield single by Jason Bay. The Braves committed seven errors in the series, the most they have ever had in a three-game series against the Mets, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
And behind those miscues and Pelfrey, the Mets -- who went 5-13 against the Braves last season -- swept the first meeting this year.
Not a shabby start to the season for a pitcher whose claim to fame last year was that he managed to make a full complement of starts, unlike injured rotation mates Oliver Perez, Santana and Maine. Pelfrey had struggled so much this spring training while producing a 6.15 Grapefruit League ERA, manager Jerry Manuel had rearranged the rotation at the last moment, pushing Pelfrey from Game No. 2 behind Santana to the season's second series against the Washington Nationals.
Asked if he would have been able to overcome all the "traffic" on the bases -- to use Manuel's term -- had he been faced with comparable trouble last season, Pelfrey said: "Probably not. I might be sitting on the bench in the third inning or the fourth inning."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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