Reliable Pelfrey can come up big again

Reliable Pelfrey can come up big again

MIAMI -- Mike Pelfrey hasn't done a lot of losing recently.

In fact, the 24-year-old right-hander has won his last seven decisions, and the Mets are 10-1 with him on the mound in his last 11 starts.

That's a pretty revealing stat, considering where Pelfrey was at the beginning of the season.

In April, he was insurance. A guy who can take up a spot in the rotation while Orlando Hernandez figured it out in the Minor Leagues. A young man who, on a team with big names like Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez, was almost forgotten.

Now, after 107 games of the regular season, he's as reliable as anybody -- tied for first among Mets starters in wins and second in ERA.

Pelfrey said a big reason for that is he can finally be himself on the mound because he knows he's solidified his spot in the rotation.

"I just feel like I don't have to be perfect out there, which is what I thought in the past," said Pelfrey, who was back and forth between the Minor Leagues and the Majors in his first two seasons with the Mets. "I thought I had to be perfect with my accuracy and perfect with every pitch. But it's not possible.

"I had a couple of games that went good, and I realized I don't need to be better than what I'm capable of being. If I can go out and be myself, that's still pretty good."

Pelfrey said because of his new mentality, his command has been a lot better. But the addition -- or the re-introduction -- of a curveball has helped matters, too.

Pelfrey said a couple of years ago, former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson told him to scrap the curveball because he couldn't consistently throw it for strikes. But when Dan Warthen took control of the pitching staff, he told Pelfrey to give it a shot again to help him set up his fastball.

"[Throwing a curveball] always helps with the spreading of velocity," said Warthen, who added he prefers he use it in "non-danger counts," like 0-0 and 0-1. "He can continue to stay down in the zone, but I like the idea of him spreading out the velocity with his pitches, not just the changeup.

"I think it's a quality pitch. I've always thought that."

Although Pelfrey hasn't been on the wrong end of outings too much this season, he does remember losing to the Marlins the only time he faced them this year -- giving up six runs (four earned) in four innings on May 26. On Wednesday, he'll face Florida in the rubber game of a three-game series as the Mets look to build their two-game lead on the Marlins in the National League East.

Pelfrey knows this much about the Marlins: They hit a lot of home runs, but they don't hit for a very good average.

"You just have to minimize the mistakes you make," Pelfrey said. "Just worry about executing pitches and stick to the game plan. As long as you execute pitches, I feel like you can get anybody out."

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (9-6, 3.67 ERA)
Pelfrey continued his streak of impressive pitching performances with another solid outing on Friday night. He threw seven innings of one-run ball and limited the Cardinals to seven hits, striking out five. The right-hander did not walk a batter and has recorded only one free pass in his past four starts. Pelfrey said the command on his breaking ball is still not where he wants it to be, but it's getting better. He has won seven of his past eight starts. He has not lost since May 26, when he exited after just four innings against Florida. Pelfrey is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA against the Marlins this season.

FLA: RHP Josh Johnson (0-0, 3.71 ERA)
The 24-year-old continues to make steady progress in his comeback from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Johnson has made three starts, and in all three games, the right-hander was not involved in the decision. Johnson gave up two homers at Wrigley Field, the first he has allowed this season. The last time Johnson faced the Mets was on Sept. 12, 2006, at Dolphin Stadium. In that game, he sat through more than 80 minutes of a rain delay, and he left after five innings with forearm stiffness. That was the beginning of his arm problems.

Tidbits
Angel Pagan had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder on Tuesday and will miss the remainder of the season. The 27-year-old switch-hitter went on the disabled list with the injury on May 13. In 31 games this season -- his third year in the Major Leagues -- he hit .275 with 13 RBIs. ... Oliver Perez allowed a run in the first inning on Tuesday for the seventh time this season. In those seven games, he is 2-3 with a 7.48 ERA. ... Nick Evans, starting in left field on Tuesday, collected his third multi-hit game of the season and his first since July 13 against Colorado. ... Since July 1, Carlos Delgado is hitting .367 (18-for-49) with nine home runs, 24 RBIs, eight doubles and 20 runs scored. He is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 22 of his last 25 games.

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Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Mets (Pedro Martinez, 3-2, 6.25) at Astros (Brandon Backe, 6-10, 4.73), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Mets (Johan Santana, 9-7, 2.93) at Astros (Roy Oswalt, 8-8, 4.67), 7:05 p.m. ET

Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.