SAN DIEGO - Where the Mets are headed this season is anyone's guess at this point. Mike Pelfrey, however, is likely going to Disneyland as he just about punched his ticket to next month's All-Star Game in Anaheim with another stellar outing in the Mets' 4-2 victory over the Padres on Tuesday night at Petco Park.
Pelfrey allowed four hits and one run in eight innings to lead the Mets to a badly needed win on the road, where they are just 8-17 this season. He matched a career high with eight strikeouts, walked two and recorded nine ground-ball outs - not a single fly ball even reached an outfielder. Pelfrey (8-1) trails only the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez (10) in wins in the National League and Pelfrey's 2.39 ERA ranks ninth.
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"I feel good about where I'm at and what's going on," Pelfrey said. "But there's a lot of season left. I've got to continue to work, continue to go out there and perform. If I go out there and don't win a game over the next four months, nobody's going to care how you started off. I'm going to continue to work and see what happens."
Pelfrey probably wasn't thrilled by what happened in the ninth inning after Jerry Manuel pulled him after 110 pitches for Francisco Rodriguez. Nick Hundley's infield single drove in David Eckstein from third to cut it to 4-2 and the Padres got the go-ahead run to the plate with one out. But K-Rod struck out both Jerry Hairston Jr. and Chris Denorfia for his 10th save in 12 tries.
When asked why he pulled Pelfrey, Manuel said: "I still have to make sure my closer gets a legitimate amount of time. He's got to be out there in those situations."
David Wright and Ike Davis each homered and had two RBIs as the Mets improved to 2-3 on the road trip. They now have a chance to win their first road series in nine tries this season when Johan Santana takes the mound for Wednesday's finale against the Padres.
"That's the best we can do now," Wright said, "so that's the best-case scenario,"
Wright called Pelfrey the 1-B to Santana's 1-A status in the rotation, but no one has been better at stopping losing streaks than the man they call Big Pelf. The Mets are now 6-0 after a loss when Pelfrey starts and his record is 5-0 in those situations.
"He definitely gives the team confidence," Manuel said. "He pitches fast, he throws strikes, he throws ground balls. He's become the whole package now."
Pelfrey dominated with a 95-mph fastball, a heavy sinker and his new lethal splitter. Padres manager Bud Black said it's put Pelfrey "over the top" in his development and the numbers don't lie. He's now 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his last four starts.
"He's always had the stuff," Wright said. "Now he's got some wins under his belt. So much of this game is about confidence and mental approach, and he's figured it out. Something's clicked. He goes out and expects to dominate."
Wright launched his ninth homer on the first pitch of the sixth inning to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. After the Padres trimmed it to 2-1 on Eckstein's two-out double in the bottom half, Davis drilled a two-run homer, his sixth, over the 396-foot sign in centerfield to put the Mets up 4-1.
The Mets handed Pelfrey a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and for a while, that seemed like it would be plenty. Through four innings, the only hit Pelfrey allowed was an infield single to Hundley, who was promptly erased by Rod Barajas in an attempt to steal. It was only the second time Barajas had thrown out a basestealer in 16 tries this season.
Hundley opened the fifth inning with the Padres' second hit and Pelfrey picked him off. But San Diego cut the lead to 2-1 in the sixth. Tony Gwynn drew a leadoff walk, and scored from second with two outs on Eckstein's double into the rightfield corner. That snapped a streak of 12 scoreless innings for Pelfrey.
After Monday's record-setting 18-6 loss, the Mets badly needed an ego boost. The Padres' 18 runs were the most they had ever scored at Petco Park, and the highest total allowed by the Mets since 2004 in a 19-10 loss to the Expos.
The Mets got an early jump on the Padres' Wade LeBlanc by taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but they squandered a chance for more. After Luis Castillo's one-out walk, the Mets strung together three straight singles, with Wright driving in the run. Jason Bay was cut down at the plate, however, and Angel Pagan stranded two when he flied out to centerfield.
The Mets got caught stealing twice trying to move into scoring position in the later innings. In the second, with one out and Pelfrey at the plate, Jeff Francoeur took off from first and was thrown out. Jose Reyes was nailed in the fifth inning when he was caught stealing for the first time in 22 career attempts against the Padres.