Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey throws a live batting practice...

Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey throws a live batting practice session during a spring training workout. (March 1, 2012) Credit: AP

It’s not as though Mike Pelfrey was pitching for his job Thursday night against the Astros. It just felt that way.

The Mets, already committed to Pelfrey, probably weren’t thrilled about his 11.49 ERA entering the game. They were considerably happier after the 9-1 victory over Houston at Digital Domain Park.

Pelfrey allowed three hits and one run in 61 / 3 innings, a significant improvement. More importantly, he struck out three without a walk, and of those 19 outs, 13 came on the ground.

“My command was by far the best it’s been all spring training,” Pelfrey said. “I thought I did a good job keeping the ball down. Obviously, that’s a lot of ground balls. It is spring training, but at the end of the day, I felt good. I felt strong.”

Terry Collins has been publicly supportive of Pelfrey, but even he suggested this outing carried a bit more weight in his mind than any of the previous ones. Pelfrey’s only remaining start will be a brief tuneup next week as he scales back for the regular season.

“I felt bad for Mike,” Collins said. “Because of what he came in with, we had to see something. He had to show us he was OK, that there was still something there, and he did tonight.

“I tell you what, I was really happy with what I saw. I saw all the things today that I heard about. I saw a power sinker, the great movement, the curveball for strikes. I thought it was really a step forward.’’

Any concerns about David Wright’s abdominal strain continued to fade after he drilled a grand slam off Livan Hernandez. It was Wright’s third game in four days, and he plans to be in the lineup today Friday .