By Mike Steffanos
Mets 8 - Reds 3
Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph were hoping that Mike Pelfrey would take a step forward in his second major-league start. They were not disappointed. Displaying much better control and a sinker with good movement that had the Reds beating a lot of balls into the ground, Pelfrey pitched 6 solid innings and grabbed another win for his troubles.
Pelfrey was helped out by double plays in each of the first three innings, and was fortunate a couple of times on some hard hit balls, but displayed a better mastery of the strike zone, and threw a lot more sinking fastballs rather than the riding fastball he has more difficulty controlling. He didn't throw a lot of sliders and changeups. He had pretty good luck when he did work in the slider, getting some key strikes with it. He struggled much more with the changeup, giving Lo Duca a workout as he overthrew several in the dirt.
He seemed to develop more confidence as the game went on, pitching a 1-2-3 fourth and making a huge pitch in the fifth when, up 2-0, he struck out Adam Dunn on an impressive 3-2 fastball with 2 men on. Up 3-0 in the sixth he started to lose it a little, retiring Griffey for the first out but then giving up a single to Rich Aurilia and wild pitching him to second base. Scott Hatteberg stroked another hard single. Aurilia advanced to third, failing to score because he got a terrible jump off second. Pelfrey came back with a nasty inside fastball on Brandon Phillips, jamming him and getting a soft ground ball for the second out that scored Aurilia. Royce Clayton singled home Aurilia, but was thrown out at second on terrific throw by Nady in right, allowing Pelfrey to survive 6 innings with a 3-2 lead.
Meanwhile, the Mets were struggling early against Eric Milton, touching him up for solo home runs by Nady and Valentin, but little else. The scratched another run in the sixth when Jose Reyes walked and was doubled home by Lo Duca. Maddeningly, though, they always seemed to be one big hit that never came away from busting it open. Then in the seventh singles by Nady and Valentin set the table, and Eli Marrero, hitting for Pelfrey, sacrificed them over to second and third. Milton got Jose Reyes to hit weak dribbler in front of the plate that Nady failed to break on, and it looked like he might escape yet again. He seemed to pitch around Lo Duca on purpose to load the bases for Beltran, who is hitting under .220 on the year from the right side. That number went up some when Beltran deposited a hanging slider into the second deck in left for his second grand slam in 2 games.
The Reds scratched out a run against Bradford in the seventh, but Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wagner got them home, securing the win for Pelfrey.
Thoughts on the game
That sinker Pelfrey was throwing was nasty. If he can get better control of that running fastball and his secondary pitches, his strikeout total will go up. When a pitcher induces a lot of groundballs and brings 96-97 mph heat, you really are talking potential ace there down the road. For now, he still struggles a little with his command, only throwing 54 strikes in 98 pitches, but he has a knack for making the big pitch when he has to.
One thing that also impressed me, though it might seem silly, was that a couple of times when he got into trouble he stopped to tie his shoes. He seemed to use it as a mechanism to slow himself down and take a breath. One time he took a little long doing it and the crowd started booing, but it didn't faze him or hurry him. That's a nice level of maturity to see in a 22-year-old pitcher.
Reyes had a throwing error today and almost had another one that Delgado saved him with a sweep tag in the ninth. He just looks a little unsure of himself out there, even though the stitches are on his glove hand, not his throwing hand. On the positive side, he was in on all 3 double plays. One, on a hard hit ball by Griffey was really interesting. The Mets had the shift on against junior, and Reyes fielded the ball on the second base side of the bag and flipped it to David Wright, playing in the shortstop spot, for the turn.
Wagner came in, despite the 5-run lead, because he hadn't pitched in a few days. He seemed to struggle with command a little, then settled down and threw strikes. Its hard to get a read on whether he has really turned it around or not, but this probably isn't a fair game to judge him on.
This game is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.