Mike Pelfrey played Houdini through four innings Saturday, but his ability to escape jams proved to be an illusion in a 4-0 loss to the Braves.
Pelfrey put at least two runners on base in every inning. While he got out of bases-loaded jams in the second and fourth innings, he was unable to do so for the third time during the fifth inning.
He surrendered five consecutive singles to open the fifth. Troy Glaus drove in Chipper Jones for the first run of the game on the third hit. With Glaus on first and Brian McCann on second, pitching coach Dan Warthen came to the mound. A pitch later, Barajas came out for a chat.
After winning nine of his first 10 decisions and hearing talk of an All-Star selection, the team is 2-3 in Pelfrey's last five starts and he has a 6.95 ERA in that span. He matched a career-high by allowing 12 hits Saturday and he has thrown no more than 42/3 innings in three consecutive starts.
Both manager Jerry Manuel and Pelfrey said the problem has been his inability to command inside pitches. As a result, Pelfrey has been falling behind hitters and is not in a position to use his splitter, a pitch he honed this offseason and has used to put hitters away.
"I felt the same way I've felt the last month - grinding," Pelfrey said of his arduous outing Saturday. "I had to grind and grind."
He joked with R.A. Dickey in the third inning that it would be nice to have a 1-2-3 inning. "There hasn't been a whole lot of those," Pelfrey said, his last occurring in the sixth inning of a June 25 win against the Minnesota Twins.
In conjunction with the upcoming All-Star break, Manuel rearranged the rotation this week to give starters extra days off entering the second half of the season.
Manuel said next week will be a much needed mental break for Pelfrey.
"He's probably at a little wall right now for him," Manuel said. "The break comes at a good time for him. He'll probably have close to six to seven days off before his next start, to give him a chance to recuperate. I think he'll be fine."
Pelfrey said he wished the break would have begun before his spate of bad starts. "I'll take the time off and hopefully come back to start the second half and be a lot better," he said.
Unable to get out of yesterday's fifth inning, Pelfrey said next week is all about escaping the game for a while. He said he will not watch the All-Star Game, admitting that getting snubbed from a trip to Anaheim weighed on him and that "the last couple of outings haven't helped my case at all."
The righty said his only baseball-related activity next week will be playing catch to stay loose.
"I'm not turning the TV on. I won't be watching anything," he said with a chuckle.