Jose Reyes missed six games with an oblique injury.

Jose Reyes missed six games with an oblique injury. Credit: Getty Images

You know that Mike Pelfrey's lousy 2009 can't be attributed solely to alleged mental weakness, right?

We're all on the same page with that?

Sure, maybe Pelfrey's state of mind played a contributing role, and to his credit, the righthander spent the winter consulting with a sports psychologist. But he also suffered from bad luck and the absence of Jose Reyes at shortstop, and perhaps even fatigue after overextending himself in the 2009 season.

Yet after Pelfrey and the Mets suffered an eventful 8-6 loss to the Reds last night at Citi Field, Pelfrey himself owned up to this very indiscretion.

"For the first time in over a year,'' he said, "I let my emotions get the best of me."

The game's talking point occurred in the top of the fifth inning, when second-base umpire Dan Iassogna overturned a call by plate ump Jerry Meals, changing Pelfrey's strikeout of Scott Rolen to a hit by pitch.

That got Mets manager Jerry Manuel ejected and fired up the crowd with the rare chant of "Jerry! Jerry!"

The game's real turning point, however, took place just a couple of batters later. One out away from escaping that mess with only one Cincinnati run crossing the plate, Pelfrey cracked when he didn't get a strike call he wanted from Meals.

Seventy-five percent of the cycle later - Drew Stubbs singled, Corky Miller doubled and pitcher Travis Wood tripled - the Reds had plated six runs, and Pelrey's work shift ended.

"This is the first time I've seen it," said Rod Barajas, the first-year Met catcher, who made sure to point out that Pelfrey missed a key pitch call.

After Rolen's strikeout-turned-HBP forced home Brandon Phillips to nudge the Reds ahead 2-1, Pelfrey retired Jonny Gomes on a soft line drive to shortstop Ruben Tejada and struck out Jay Bruce.

Stubbs swung through a fastball for strike one, then looked at a fastball lower and more outside for ball one.

Pelfrey admitted he wanted that strike two call. At 1-and-1, Barajas called for a fastball. Pelfrey instead threw a splitter and Stubbs singled to leftfield, bringing home Orlando Cabrera and snubbed All-Star Joey Votto for a 4-1 Reds lead.

Pelfrey wouldn't retire another batter, and while he whined afterward about Rolen's play-acting - even though Barajas conceded that the umps probably did well in convening to switch the call - he at least owned up to his transgression.

"All that is part of maturing," Manuel said. "That's a great learning experience for him. I think Mike will grow from these things and be better. Be better for it."

The Mets have to hope. Pelfrey, an All-Star hopeful himself, has allowed at least four runs in three of his last four starts. If you thought he could keep up his brilliant start to the season, you lacked the capability to be realistic.

We'll see how he responds Saturday in a big start against the Braves at home, and then he'll get the All-Star break to rest his body and his mind for the stretch run.

In the meantime, the Mets - grateful for what Pelfrey already has given and not delusional over how much more he has to give - will continue working the phone lines, trying to get Pelfrey and Johan Santana some help atop the starting rotation.

The Mariners and Cubs haven't made Cliff Lee and Ted Lilly officially available. Those guys and others will go on the market soon enough, though, and the Mets will be ready to negotiate.

If they can find someone who can take some pressure off Pelfrey and teach him a few more lessons about coping with adversity, all the better.