Mike Pelfrey is back. And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Mets.
Few would have given him a chance against Ubaldo Jimenez, one of the league’s best pitchers. But last night it was Pelfrey who outpitched the Colorado ace, scattering four hits over seven innings in the Mets’ 1-0 victory in front of 30,036 at Citi Field.
Pelfrey (11-6) struck out four and walked one while tossing a career-high 122 pitches (79 for strikes).
“It definitely feels good,” said the righthander, who won his first game since June 25. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. After the last seven starts, tonight was a big step in the right direction.”
Everything from his fastball to his breaking pitches were working. But most notable was his pace, which was smooth and unaffected, even when the Rockies had a runner at second in both the fifth and sixth innings with one out or fewer.
“It looked like he was attacking more tonight,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “Mike is on his way back. He pitched extremely well. He was very quick, up-tempo with his game tonight.”
“I expect him to pitch like he pitched his first 10 starts,” Thole said. “In his bullpen session, he was much more aggressive. I know it’s just a bullpen session and all that, but when he can treat it more like a game situation, it helps him out.”
That preparation showed. For the first time in five starts, Pelfrey didn’t allow a run in the first inning. He also got a hit off Jimenez in the sixth.
Added Thole: “From the first batter of the game, I think he kind of set the tone.’’
“It was awesome to see him giddy about his hit,” said Jeff Francoeur, who was replaced in the lineup by Francisco Martinez. Francoeur pinch ran in the seventh and scored the game’s only run. “This was a big lift for us, and we need him to keep doing that.”
Jimenez’s performance was, for the most part, just as sparkling, although the righthander failed to set a franchise record with his 18th win. He gave up four hits, walked four and struck out eight, but he failed to keep the Mets off the bases in the seventh.
Chris Carter walked to start the inning and Thole doubled off the rightfield wall. After Ruben Tejada struck out, Jimenez (17-3) intentionally walked pinch hitter Carlos Beltran to load the bases for Jose Reyes, who delivered a sacrifice fly.
“It’s not easy to score a run on that guy,” Reyes said. “It was kind of tough. In my mind I said, ‘Don’t strike out in that situation because it’s huge.’ The way Pelfrey pitched, we’re just happy to get a win for him.”
Hisanori Takahashi, who has impressed Manuel enough to earn the eighth-inning role outright, pitched a scoreless inning. He gave way to Francisco Rodriguez, who picked up his 25th save for the Mets (56-56).
“Wins are nice,” Pelfrey said with a smile. “Hopefully, we’ll keep it going.”