Mike Pelfrey (#34) of the New York Mets delivers a...

Mike Pelfrey (#34) of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels at Citi Field. (June 18, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Terry Collins was talking things over with his coaching staff hours before Saturday night's first pitch, discussing just how important a start it was going to be for Mike Pelfrey.

The Mets were reeling a bit entering their interleague matchup with the Angels, having dropped two straight tough losses that could've easily had them questioning their fortunes. So that put the onus on Pelfrey, their de facto No. 1 starter with Johan Santana still on the shelf.

"We said, 'This is when you need your No. 1 guy to step up,' " Collins said, recalling the pregame conversations with his coaches. "After the last two nights, you need your No. 1 guy to give you a game. And he absolutely did."

Pelfrey (4-5) was masterful. He tossed a complete game, allowing one run and five hits in a 6-1 win before an announced crowd of 31,538 at Citi Field. He struck out five, walked no one and retired the game's first nine batters. Pelfrey didn't give up his first hit until the fourth -- a leadoff single to Maicer Izturis -- in what could be considered his best start of the season.

"I felt like it was," said Pelfrey, who threw 82 of his 123 pitches for strikes. "It all started with fastball command. It was good. I thought I established the inside part of the plate early, especially against the lefties. They had a lot of lefties in the lineup and then I was able to throw the secondary pitches for strikes. I thought the curveball was pretty good today, which is pretty rare."

Pelfrey's slider and splitter were on target, and his only true mistake was Mark Trumbo's solo homer in the sixth. He made eye contact with Collins after the eighth, letting him know he wanted to close it out.

Collins obliged.

"He was challenging hitters," said Carlos Beltran, who drove in three runs. "He's in attack mode sometimes and sometimes he can relax. That really affects him on the mound. I can see it. Today I told him, 'Hey, be aggressive, don't get so relaxed on the bench.' And he looked good. He was aggressive, he had energy on the mound and he was able to go the distance."

The Mets also were aggressive on the bases, stealing four against Dan Haren, and the runner came around to score each time.

In the third, Jose Reyes singled, stole second and reached third on Justin Turner's one-out grounder to shortstop. Beltran then laced a hanging full-count curveball up the middle for a 1-0 lead.

"I think that was huge," Reyes said of the Mets' running game. "He was kind of slow to home plate. We had a lot of guys with a lot of speed and we had to take advantage of that."

In the fourth, Angel Pagan singled, stole second and scored on Jason Bay's single for a 2-0 lead.

"Everybody was so happy for him and so excited," Collins said of Bay. "I thought it was the biggest hit of the game."

Bay then stole second and scored on first baseman Russell Branyan's error.

Reyes walked and stole second (his 26th steal) to start the fifth before scoring on Turner's single to right. Beltran crushed a 2-and-1 fastball that landed on Shea Bridge in right-centerfield for a 6-0 lead, knocking Haren out of the game.

The Mets are back within a game of .500.

"It's important," Reyes said. "We don't want to just play .500. We want to play over .500."