Commentary

Pelfrey plays stopper in Coors finale

Seven scoreless innings leads to franchise's first-ever shutout in Denver

Updated: April 15, 2010, 8:28 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

DENVER -- Mike Pelfrey was so distraught after getting pulled after four innings against the Colorado Rockies last Sept. 1, he left Coors Field during the game and began running in the stadium's vast parking lot.

That day, Pelfrey's record dipped under .500 for the first time during the 2009 season, his ERA swelled to 5.03 and the mental fatigue of a disappointing year overtook him.

Pelfrey took the mound at Coors Field again on Thursday afternoon, 227 days after that meltdown. His stellar performance became the latest evidence the right-hander has overcome the obstacles -- many of them mental -- that helped torpedo his '09 season.

[+] EnlargeMike Pelfrey
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesMike Pelfrey banished memories of past failures with a dominating performance on Thursday.

Pelfrey tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits while striking out six and issuing no walks, as the Mets beat the Rockies 5-0. The Mets, still only 3-6, halted a four-game losing streak with a desperately needed victory that salvaged the series finale.

"That's as good as I've seen Pelf pitch," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "That's what a No. 2 -- or a guy like that -- has to do when you lose the first two. You want to be a stud. You want to be that guy. Today was a big day not just showing the fans and us, but everybody what he can do and the confidence he has. He pitched with a whole bunch of confidence today. It was fun to watch."

With Pelfrey's pitch count at 108, manager Jerry Manuel inserted Frank Catalanotto as a pinch hitter for the right-hander in the eighth. Pedro Feliciano and Francisco Rodriguez then polished off the Mets' first shutout in the 71 games the franchise has played in Colorado. The Rockies had not been shut out at home all of last season. They had homered in each of their previous eight games this season.

Pelfrey (2-0) had the eighth scoreless starting effort of his career, although none has been a complete game, so he has no shutouts on his résumé. His longest scoreless performance came Aug. 13, 2008 at Shea Stadium, when he blanked the Rockies for eight innings and combined with Joe Smith for a 7-0 victory. That outing came during Pelfrey's career-high seven-game winning streak.

This victory was vitally important for a number of reasons beyond Pelfrey's newly steeled psyche. The Mets get no favors during their weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. They will face National League Cy Young runners-up Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

"I feel like I'm in control of myself," said Pelfrey, who is now more vigorously incorporating his slider and a split-finger fastball into his repertoire. "I'm not letting things get to me. That's huge."

How much clearer is Pelfrey's head now?

Last year, Pelfrey balked three times in one game, against the San Francisco Giants. He balked a National League-high six times in total during the season while having well-documented anxiety issues with runners on base.

Having seen a sports psychologist during the offseason, Pelfrey seemingly has put those issues behind him. His balk Thursday was more of a miscommunication than anything. Pelfrey stopped in the middle of his delivery with Miguel Olivo on first base in the fifth inning because he saw Melvin Mora begin stepping out of the batter's box. Plate umpire Dana DeMuth had not granted time, and Olivo was awarded second base once Pelfrey halted mid-delivery.

"I had in my mind that, 'Hey, I'm pitching right now,' and I started to lift up and I saw Mora stick his hand up and step out," Pelfrey said. "I guess the umpire never granted it to him ... I'm not trying to lead the league in balks again. I know that. Next time I'll have to throw it, I guess."

No matter. Pelfrey then shattered Mora's bat while inducing a groundout to third base that ended the inning.

Pelfrey even contributed at the plate. He walked and scored on a botched rundown by the Rockies in the third inning. An inning later, Pelfrey delivered a two-out RBI single to stake the Mets to a 4-0 lead.

Higher-paid batters contributed, too.

Jason Bay produced his second RBI as a Met with a first-inning single, and Pelfrey made that stand up with a scoreless bottom half of the frame. The Mets had not led at the conclusion of an inning since beating the Washington Nationals on Friday. That 37-inning streak without holding a lead at the end of an inning was one shy of matching the Houston Astros' April 5-10 futility mark for the longest in the majors this season.

Not bad for a day that had more ominous beginnings. Two hours before the game, Pelfrey bumped his head on a ceiling-mounted flat-screen television in the visitors' clubhouse at Coors Field after chatting with David Wright.

"Good way to start the day off," Pelfrey said with a laugh.

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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