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Pelfrey inconsistent in finale

Pelfrey inconsistent in finale

PHOENIX -- The benefit of the doubt was in ample supply Sunday afternoon as the Mets measured the latest performance of Mike Pelfrey. They viewed his work, not through the prism of his potential, but through one of understanding, one that made the positives seem more conspicuous than the flaws, and they used gentle phrasing such as "baby steps" and "growing pains."

They did so because they could. They already have some margin for error. The standings look quite favorable, and winning three of four games on the road against any opponent constitutes a pretty good run. So what is there to fuss about when a rookie pitcher stubs his toe?

They did so because they should. "We try to keep it positive for him ... for everyone," assistant general manager John Ricco said.

"Because it does help," Tom Glavine said recalling when Bobby Cox cut him considerable slack in a 7-17 season.

And they did so because it's true. Pelfrey has experienced growing pains, and he has taken baby steps in the appropriate direction.

The least forgiving and understanding among the Mets on this day was the man in question. Pelfrey was the losing pitcher in the Mets' shapeless, uneventful and altogether tedious 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks. And though he was grateful for the consideration of his colleagues, he rejected it. "We're trying to win some games here," he said, "and I haven't won one yet."

He wasn't throwing himself on the sword, but rather stating fact. His record after five starts is 0-4. And no matter how empathetic his colleagues may be, he said, "I've got to throw a 'W' in there." If only he could be as patient as the Mets.

Pelfrey is a rookie despite his big-league service last season. And he is a prospect as well, the brightest pitching prospect in the organization. He hears that. He can't fully grasp it yet though because evidence is lacking. If only he could be as confident as the Mets.

He'd like to present some compelling evidence, more, certainly, than he did Sunday when pitched well enough to lose. Pelfrey hadn't pitched horridly. To borrow a term Ron Darling used in self-assessment following an unremarkable performance in his first calendar year in the big leagues, he was "un-horrid."

But he clearly was lacking in his abridged start against a team that hardly was on an offensive rampage as it lost the first three games of the series and the two preceding games. Pelfrey lasted 5 1/3 innings and threw 92 pitches to do so. He surrendered merely three hits, two of them doubles, but he walked four batters and hit two others. He allowed his opponent to score in the first inning as he had done in his previous three starts, and, unlike his other starts, he couldn't make his slider behave.

He took his own criticism. "I caused it," he said. "I shouldn't have hit them. I put myself in that position."

The hit batsmen, his third and fourth in what now is 25 1/3 innings, led to the third run, in the sixth inning. It scored on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Montero against Pedro Feliciano. The other runs were the result of the Diamondbacks' modest, piecemeal offense.

"Overall, I think he pitched pretty well," Willie Randolph said.

"He's making progress," Ricco said. "[Pelfrey's performance] would have looked better if we gave him some runs."

Instead, the Mets matched their season-low -- though they won the other game in which they scored once. Livan Hernandez, hardly new to the Mets, but new to the Mets-D-backs equation, pitched effectively for seven innings. He gained his third victory with a bend-don't-break performance, surrendering six hits, two by Endy Chavez, and three walks, two to Shawn Green. Ramon Castro drove in the Mets' run in the fourth, the only inning in which Hernandez allowed three baserunners. The Mets produced one baserunner after his departure.

And so the Mets' improbable run of dominance in the desert ended -- rather limply. They had won 13 straight road games against the D-backs. The end of the streak hardly was lamented.

It had been that sort of day for the Mets -- flat, without energy or passion. Even Jose Reyes didn't smile all that much despite making the play of the day, throwing out Carlos Quentin from the seat of his pants in the eighth.

For the most part, the Mets took the whole afternoon sitting down. And that had little to do with Pelfrey.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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