There has been this up and down theory of the New York Mets this season as they continue to count down the end of another season. Their pitching staff depends on starter Mike Pelfrey, who was designated ace of the staff in April as Johan Santana continued to recover from left shoulder surgery. Pelfrey has showed some spark as the ace but deep into the game, even with the good sinker, he gives up the runs with a high pitch count.
That was the case again Tuesday night at Citi Field. The Florida Marlins had a five-run seventh inning, Pelfrey lost his eighth straight decision to the Fish, Javier Vasquez got a milestone strikeout and win, and New York snapped a four-game winning streak with a 6-0 loss. In between there was a miscue on the field by rookie second baseman Justin turner and the Mets will look to rebound Wednesday evening in the third game of a four-day, five-game series.
“They definitely have my number, that’s for sure,” commented Pelfrey who is 0-8 in 16 starts against the Marlins since pitching a major league debut win against them in July of 2006. Pelfrey was coming off a career high 125 pitches last Wednesday in Philadelphia and threw scoreless ball for six innings. But in the seventh inning a defensive mistake started the implosion. Vasquez came to bat and a bunt play became a single because the Mets left first base uncovered.
Turner made indication for a pickoff try but Pelfrey went to the plate. Turner would be the culprit that opened the inning for Florida. “I should have stepped off or threw to second,” explained Pelfrey (7-11) as the Mets were shutout for the seventh time this season and second time at home. “The worst thing in that situation is go home. He showed me the open glove, that’s on me.”
“It was a weird play,” said Turner, “and we got caught.” David Wright, 2-for-3, was in the play. “A couple of different people saw a couple of different things, and that’s why it didn’t work,” he said about the play. Earlier in the day, Wright was a recipient of the first Roberto Clemente Sportsman of the Year Award at a latino Sports awards luncheon at Citi Field. “He (Pelfrey) deserved the win. He challenges hitters. That’s why his pitch count is up.”
Pelfrey got out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth but it was a struggle getting Gaby Sanchez to pop up to Justin turner at second. “Mike pitched very well,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “It’s a perfect example of what is going on the last four games where Mets starters previously allowed four earned runs in 28.0 innings, a 1.29 ERA.
Vasquez, (8-11) in the meantime continued to turn around a season that got off to a bad start. He achieved a career milestone in strikeouts with 2,500 in the sixth inning when he struck out Lucas Duda swinging, his sixth in seven innings pitched. The veteran pitcher of six teams, including two stints with the New York Yankees, became the 30th pitcher in Major League history to achieve that mark. He retired 13 consecutive Mets before Josh Thole got a two-out single in the fifth, evened his career record at 160-160, walked one and gave up three hits.
It was his seventh straight quality start. “I didn’t know I had it,” he said about the strikeout. He claims teammates informed him of the milestone when he reached the dugout. “I played so many years, it’s an honor,” he said holding a 2004 bottle of Italian wine that was presented to him by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
Vasquez knew, after being informed that he was one of the few to reach the plateau. “I don’t think I’m going to stick around for 3,000,” he commented. “I’m not going to play that long. This might be it,” he said, offering hints that this may be his final season in a uniform. Though he used both sides of the plate well against the Mets and it was good enough to impress Collins and his team.
“He had a good breaking ball and appears to got his strength back,” said Collins. Vasquez, though, would not admit that he is getting stronger and pitching perhaps the best ball of his career after a dull period in New York. “It’s nice to pitch well and finish on a good note,” he said.
But for Pelfrey, pitching well and working the hitters does not seem to add to wins. He has become the hard luck pitcher, especially against the Marlins. “It definitely gives me an incentive,” he said about the losing streak.
NOTES: Gaby Sanchez went 2-for- 5 and a RBI batting .373 with seven home runs and 26 RBI in his career against the Mets…. The Mets pen allowed two more runs and have given up one run in 29 of their last 36 games…. The finale Thursday night will see Miguel Batista get the start for New York, the veteran and former pitcher of the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks….
It was the Marlins eighth shutout of the season and Mike Stanton hit his 31st homer in the ninth inning, a long shot to the Pepsi Porch in right. On the home run, Collins said, “I think he has the most, raw power I have ever seen. I have never seen a guy generate that kind of power before.”
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com