Misplay on bunt sinks Pelfrey, Mets

New York Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey on the New York Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey on the mound in the 6th inning of his game against the Florida Marlins. (Aug. 30, 2011) Photo Credit: Thomas A. Ferrara

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It's not that Mike Pelfrey can't beat the Marlins. He just doesn't.

With a lucky bounce or two, and maybe someone besides Javier Vazquez pitching for Florida, Pelfrey could have achieved that impossible dream Tuesday night at Citi Field.

Instead, Pelfrey delivered six scoreless innings, then watched the game unravel around him in the seventh. That's when Florida scored five runs after a botched wheel play to roll over the Mets, 6-0.

That's pretty much how it goes when Pelfrey faces Florida, a team he hasn't beaten since his major-league debut July 8, 2006, at Shea Stadium.

"I think I was lucky we scored 17 that day," Pelfrey said. "I'm at a loss for words. They have my number."

Here's a few more numbers. Pelfrey slipped to 1-8 with a 5.20 ERA in 17 career starts against the Marlins. Among the 76 pitchers in major-league history with at least 10 career starts against Florida, Pelfrey has the worst winning percentage (.111) and fewest victories.

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"I thought it was more [starts] than that," Pelfrey said of the drought. "It feels like more."

Pelfrey (7-11) battled Vazquez to a scoreless tie until the seventh, when Mike Cameron led off with a ground-ball double. Pelfrey followed with a walk to John Buck, setting up a bunt situation for Vazquez.

David Wright met with Pelfrey on the mound to go over the plan, but it went awry. Before the pitch to Vazquez, Pelfrey glanced toward second, where Justin Turner flashed him an open glove, the signal for a pickoff try.

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"I screwed it up," Pelfrey said. "I've got to step off there."

But Pelfrey continued with his delivery to the plate and Vazquez poked a bunt to the left of the mound, where Wright scooped it on the run. The wheel play is designed to get the lead runner at third, but Wright had no chance from the spot where he fielded the ball.

So Wright looked at first base instead. But with Nick Evans also charging, and Turner hung up near second after the ignored pickoff try, no one was covering first. Wright ate the ball, the Marlins loaded the bases, and Pelfrey was in serious trouble.

"Nobody really did anything wrong," Wright said. "On that specific play, everything that could go wrong did go wrong, I guess."

The Marlins' jinx apparently was in full effect, so it was no surprise when the next batter, Emilio Bonifacio, ended Pelfrey's night with an RBI single to rightfield. Tim Byrdak didn't do him any favors, either, letting in three of Pelfrey's runs on Greg Dobbs' groundout and a two-run single by Logan Morrison.

Still, Pelfrey took the blame, beating himself up for walking Buck and ignoring Turner's pickoff call.

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"I had two screw-ups that inning," Pelfrey said, "and I ended up paying for it."

The Mets didn't provide much help. Vazquez, who allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings, retired 13 straight at one point and didn't let a runner reach second base after the first inning.

It was Pelfrey who got the ball rolling for the Mets' pitching staff with his Aug. 24 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. It wasn't pretty -- Pelfrey needed 125 pitches for six innings -- but that victory began a 4-0 streak for the rotation, with a 1.29 ERA in that stretch.

With Pelfrey headed for another clash with the Marlins, however, the Mets' good fortune was destined to change.

"Maybe I'm cursed," Pelfrey said. "I don't know."

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