- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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SAN DIEGO -- Only one thing stopped Jerry Manuel from allowing Mike Pelfrey to attempt his third career complete game: The New York Mets' manager felt obligated to get closer Francisco Rodriguez work in a save opportunity.
So Pelfrey departed after allowing one run on four hits and two walks in eight innings, while matching a career high with eight strikeouts. The Mets ultimately beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Tuesday at Petco Park as David Wright and Ike Davis each homered and drove in two runs. The Mets improved to 6-0 in games started by Pelfrey after a loss.
"I have to make sure my closer gets a legitimate amount of time as well. He's got to be out there in those situations," Manuel said of lifting Pelfrey after 110 pitches, even though the right-hander will get a week off before his next start, Tuesday against the Padres again. "Just as important as Mike and Johan [Santana] at the top, you've got to make sure Frankie is getting those reps in."
Said Pelfrey: "I wanted to go back out. I tried to tell them that I think I have a week off now. I said, 'Hey man, we've got to keep this going.' Hopefully coming out now will keep you fresh for September and August. And in the end, it's not my decision. I've got to do what they say."
Asked if the score were 6-1 whether Pelfrey goes out for the ninth, Manuel said, "He probably finishes that game. Sure."
Pelfrey (8-1) now has consecutively limited three teams in postseason positions -- the Yankees, Phillies and Padres -- to one run each or fewer.
He joined Al Leiter (2000), Dwight Gooden (1988), David Cone ('88), Terry Leach ('87) and Jon Matlack ('76) as the only pitchers in franchise history to win at least eight of their first nine decisions, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pat Mahomes went 8-0 in 39 relief appearances in 1999.
"He's coming into his own," Manuel said. "I think you can now start to talk about him in the same breath as those other young pitchers -- the [Josh] Johnsons , the [Ubaldo] Jimenezes and those types of guys -- because I think he belongs in that class."
Said Pelfrey: "Well, I think Jimenez is in a league of his own."
Pelfrey did not allow a runner to reach second base until Tony Gwynn Jr. walked to open the bottom of the sixth and advanced to second on a squibber by pinch hitter Lance Zawadzki, which Wright charged, fielded with his bare hand and threw to first for an out. A night after San Diego routed the Mets with 18 runs, Gwynn then scored the Padres' lone run on a two-out double by David Eckstein that sliced inside the first-base bag.
Pelfrey faced one over the minimum number of batters through five innings, thanks to Nick Hundley getting erased on a caught stealing in the second inning and getting picked off by Pelfrey in the fifth inning.
"He's become the whole package now. Holding runners well, that's huge for him," Manuel said, an allusion to Pelfrey's six balks and well-documented issues with runners on base last season.
Subtract a six-run fourth inning by the Phillies on May 1, and Pelfrey otherwise has a 1.53 ERA this season. As it is, his 2.39 ERA isn't too shabby.
Meanwhile, Wright already is one shy of matching his 2009 homer total. He had a bases-loaded RBI single in the first inning off Wade LeBlanc and took the southpaw deep on the first pitch of the sixth. Davis crushed a two-run shot over the center-field wall in the seventh off right-hander Edward Mujica to stake the Mets to a 4-1 lead.
Pelfrey had his longest outing this season. Rodriguez allowed a run to score in the ninth and the tying run to reach first base but recorded his 10th save.
"It gives you confidence knowing Mike is on the mound," Wright said. "I think he's earned that same confidence that you have when Johan pitches. He's really become the 1A."
Mike Pelfrey could've gone the distance in San Diego, but K-Rod needed the work.