Mets manager Willie Randolph chalked it up as a young pitcher taking his lumps -- a normal process to be sure, but seldom a comfort.
Pitching coach Rick Peterson, too, blamed youthful inconsistency -- the subtle-yet-critical difference between trying your best and being your best.
Different expressions, but the same sour meaning. And none of them could mask the fact that this one, plain and simple, was ugly. The Mets came to Shea Stadium on Wednesday with ambitions for a sweep, and left stunned by the aftershocks of 20 Colorado hits in an 11-5 thumping.
"Whatever I'm doing, it's not working," Pelfrey said. "I didn't execute my pitches. When I missed, I missed over the plate, and they made me pay."
It was a five-run third inning that spoiled Pelfrey's afternoon, with Colorado pitcher Josh Fogg sparking the rally. Fogg's leadoff base hit turned out to be an omen, as three of the next four Rockies came through with singles. That's when Peterson took a trip to the mound, but to no avail. Just two pitches later, John Mabry launched a Pelfrey offering over the wall for a three-run home run that effectively ended the rookie's day.
And the more Pelfrey struggled, the more he leaned on his fastball. It's a devastating pitch, and scouts have billed it as his best offering. But Wednesday, it was remained up in the zone time and again, and the free-swinging Rockies were more than eager to take advantage.
"I didn't even throw any off-speed pitches," Pelfrey said. "I just kept throwing fastballs and they kept hitting it, but I just kept throwing it and throwing it. I guess you could say I'm too stubborn to throw anything else."
It was the worst outing of Pelfrey's career, which ended when Randolph lifted his rookie for a pinch-hitter in the third. In the end, the 61-pitch performance raised Pelfrey's ERA to an unhealthy 7.90 in his first three starts.
The trouble started early with a run in the first, though Pelfrey certainly wasn't sunk until Colorado batted around in the third.
"Watching the game, those pitches are up out over the plate," Peterson said. "Guys in the big leagues happen to be good at hitting those pitches."
It begs the question of whether the 23-year-old Pelfrey -- who has the stuff to one day become the ace of this staff -- is ready to be in the Majors right now. The right-hander was skipped over in the first turn of the season, finally promoted on April 13 when the schedule called for a fifth man. And Pelfrey himself admitted that there are no guarantees the Mets wouldn't do that again, either by sending him back down for seasoning, or by skipping his start when off-days allow.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya wouldn't rule either option out, though he said he expects Pelfrey to get another start. Randolph, too, didn't close the door, though he's not ready to venture there just yet.
"It's always a possibility," Pelfrey said. "I'm not guaranteed anything. I definitely have to turn around what I've been doing."
The Mets tried to turn this one around late. A Shawn Green three-run double put the Mets on the board in the sixth, and a two-run Endy Chavez single brought them closer in the ninth. Jose Reyes came through in typical Jose Reyes fashion -- namely, by mashing four hits -- but it was all meaningless after Carlos Beltran was called out at first to end the game on a throw that he appeared to beat.
The win dashed hopes of a series sweep, and gave the Rockies a crack of satisfaction. It was just Colorado's second win at Shea in 17 tries.
Thursday's off-day should be a welcome sight, with this slugfest coming on the heels of Tuesday's 12-inning affair. The bullpen is now noticeably taxed after eight relief appearances in the past two days and didn't offer much help to Pelfrey.
Aaron Sele entered in the fourth and promptly allowed hits to four of the first five batters he faced, leaving two innings later after Colorado had tacked four more runs on the board. Ambiorix Burgos followed with two innings of one-run ball, and Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith closed it out with a scoreless inning apiece. Yet even when the pitching was working, it wasn't enough to stop Rockies outfielder Willy Taveras, who finished with a career-high five hits.
Still, the late innings were an improvement, even if they did little to soften the early blow. And it was a blow that is sure to haunt Pelfrey for some time.
"I'm in a little rut right now," Pelfrey said. "I want to do good. Right now, it's just not happening. But I can make the day a little better by learning from it, and not just making it worse by writing it off as a bad day.
"It's going to turn around."
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less