It was too much to ask of Mike Pelfrey.
Pelfrey had a tough time, allowing 6 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs in only 5 innings of work. He was clearly missing two vital tools: confidence and command. After giving up a first-inning homerun to Chipper Jones, Pelfrey turned a whiter shade of pale, and worked both Jones boys way too carefully (you can’t blame him, they are among the most dangerous hitters in the NL). Against the rest of the Atlanta lineup, Pelfrey was only mediocre, struggling with his command and lacking weapons other than an occasional, good sinking fastball.
Announcer and former sinkerball specialist Ron Darling suggested that Pelfrey — with about ten days’ rest — may have been too strong, the reasoning being that a sinkerballer benefits from slight fatigue (the arm slows down, and thus the ball slows down and dies in the strike zone). However, Pelfrey’s problems go beyond a too-strong sinker; he doesn’t have anything else to throw. His change-up shows promise but is erratic — sometimes it’s too fast, sometimes it’s too high; too often it’s both. His slider also has potential, particularly when he spots it appropriately (down and away, out of the strike zone). However, because the changeup is inconsistent, he tries to throw the slider for strikes, leaving it flat and up — not a good combination. I’d like to believe that Pelfrey’s lack of sharpness was due to the lengthy rest period, but he showed similar issues against the Nationals, and I suspect he simply is not ready. There’s no question that one day, Mike Pelfrey will be a standout pitcher — with that 95+ MPH running down at the knees, he can’t fail. But, he really needs to further develop the secondary pitches to get big league hitters out.
On the other hand, Tim Hudson was the exact opposite of Pelfrey, exhibiting an array of excellent pitches and exuding confidence. He had every pitch working — the sinking fastball, the split-finger, and the slider. He threw a “pitcher’s pitch” on nearly every pitch — even on 3-0 counts — and when he didn’t have the Mets chasing his splitfinger in the dirt, he had them pounding the sinker into the ground. Every time the Mets put a runner or two on base, the next batter would ground into a double play. It was that kind of night for Hudson — where everything went right. The only Mets to hit Hudson hard were Moises Alou, who had two hits for the third straight night, and Shawn Green, who had the only other Mets hit off Hudson. Green lashed a bullet of a grounder up the middle in the seventh that might have been his second hit, but Edgar Renteria was playing him perfectly and turned it into a harmless double-play in the seventh inning.
The previously nearly perfect Mets bullpen finally showed vulnerability, as Pedro Feliciano walked in a run and Amby Burgos followed his lead by walking in another and allowing yet another to score on a wild pitch in an ugly seventh inning. However, the bullpen was bound to break eventually, and better it come in a game like this — which seemed impossible to win once Hudson got going — than in a tighter contest. After the awful seventh, Scott Schoeneweis and Joe Smith came on to pitch a perfect inning each to close out the game.
Carlos Beltran nearly hit an inside-the-park homerun in the bottom of the ninth, but was held up at third with the Mets down by 7. He might have scored on a medium fly ball to right by Carlos Delgado, but with Francoeur’s arm it didn’t make sense to try scoring because, again, they were down by seven. He did eventually score, spoiling the shutout, on a double play grounder to short that Kelly Johnson air-mailed into the third row behind first base.
Shawn Green did his part to extend the lead, blasting a line drive, two-run homerun into the right field stands off Braves reliever Rafael Soriano. It was the first Mets homerun at Shea in 2007.
David Wright’s 14 / 26-game hitting streak came to halt. He did walk once, in the ninth, and the fans heartily booed Soriano for not giving Wright a decent pitch to hit.
Every time I saw the Braves third-base coach Brian Snitker, my mind had a moment of dyslexia and made me think it said “Stinker” on the back of his jersey — offering the only chuckles of the game.
Saturday afternoon is Dog Day at Shea, and you can meet me, my wife, and my dog in the picnic area if you go to the game. Oliver Perez will face Chuck James in a battle of slot machines. Game time is 1:10 PM.