Over the course of his previous seven starts, the only things Mike Pelfrey stared at were the sky, in exasperation, the ground, in despair, and the dugout, looking for Jerry Manuel to give him the hook.
But last night, he stared down the National League leader in wins - Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, who came into the game 17-2 - and gave the limping Mets one of his best performances of the year in a 1-0 victory at Citi Field.
Pelfrey (11-6) won for the first time since June 25. He pitched seven innings, allowing only four hits and one walk, and threw a career-high 122 pitches. He also lowered his ERA to 3.95, the first time it's been below 4.00 since before his July 19 start in Arizona. In Pelfrey's previous seven starts, he was 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA and had allowed 78 baserunners in 30 innings.
Pelfrey was sharp from the get-go, striking out Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez (the NL's leading hitter) in the first inning on a pair of 3-and-2 fastballs on the outside corner. He finished the game with four strikeouts, the other two coming against Jimenez.
He even did it with the bat: His sixth-inning broken-bat single gave him five hits for the season, tying a career high.
Before the game, Manuel said he'd have a good read on Pelfrey only after he ran into trouble. Said Manuel: "There has to be some adversity out there somewhere to see how he handles it and whether or not he's going to navigate through the rest of the game."
That hurdle came early. After Brad Hawpe walked and Ian Stewart moved him to second on a single with one out in the second, Pelfrey nearly got Miguel Olivo to ground into a 5-4-3 double play, but the catcher beat the throw to first. Pelfrey remained unfazed, getting Clint Barmes to bounce out to short on a first-pitch fastball to end the inning.
And Pelfrey worked quickly. The only times he left the rubber for an extended period of time were to scrape the dirt near his landing spot in the fourth inning and to fix his shoe in the seventh.
Maybe Pelfrey's only deficiency was that his sinker wasn't getting the ground ball outs it's meant to induce. The Rockies flew out eight times, including Carlos Gonzalez's bid for a 26th home run that brought Chris Carter one step from the wall in left.
Gonzalez found the padding above Carter's head for a double in the sixth, but he was left stranded at third - a perfect spot for the righty to keep an eye on him.