NEW YORK -- After merely two starts this season, the dual pitching personalities of Oliver Perez already have shown themselves. Perez, The Prospect, shut down the Braves in his first start on Friday in Atlanta, allowing one run, five hits and -- take note -- no walks in seven innings. Then he morphed into Perez, The Project, in his second start, on Wednesday night at Shea Stadium.
This time, the Met of mystery pitched merely 2 2/3 innings. This time, he allowed three runs and -- take note and a deep breath -- seven walks. Seventeen batters faced, seven walked -- two with the bases loaded. One batter hit -- also with the bases loaded.
On this night, Perez staged a one-man walk-a-thon for the benefit of the Phillies. The self-proclaimed Team to Beat became the Team to Walk, and it prospered enough during the transformation to overcome its own hitting deficiencies and win.
Aside from Perez's performance, the Phillies' 5-2 victory was relatively painless for the Mets. They accepted it as one of 60 games they're almost certain to lose and moved on, and they predicted -- hoped -- Perez would view his fatally-flawed start with the sense of inevitability that Aaron Sele mentioned during the postmortems.
Sele, the veteran who relieved Perez on Wednesday, put it this way: "It's the 33 rule. You make 33 starts. You have your stuff 11 times, don't have it 11 times and there are 11 times you're in between. How you make out in the last 11 determines what kind of season you have."
Since last summer, the Mets have anticipated more than a 3 X 11 season from the left-handed pitcher they acquired from the Pirates on July 31. They have whispered that he could emerge as the "ace of the staff" this season. And his performance against the Braves on Friday only reinforced that notion.
Now, there is comparable evidence to the contrary: Perez surrendered three runs in the third inning when he allowed a two-out single by Chase Utley and then walked four batters. His final pitch struck Ron Barajas and forced in the third run. He had walked the bases loaded in the second as well.
"Chalk it up as a rough night," manager Willie Randolph said, noting that his offense hadn't scored enough to support a more effective pitcher.
Given the precision of Perez's first start and his 12-pitch, three-up, three-down first inning, Randolph was surprised.
"I was surprised, too," Perez said. "Every game is different."
And some are more different than others.
Perez blamed neither the chill nor the strike zone of plate umpire Marvin Hudson. "I know I was wild, but not wild big time," Perez said.
Catcher Paul Lo Duca couldn't disagree.
"[Perez] didn't miss by that much on some of them," Lo Duca said. "But he wasn't around the plate enough to get the close [calls]."
As if he has heard Sele's explanation, Perez said, "That can happen." And he should know. He had walked seven in a game five times -- all starts -- previously. But in each instance, he pitched at least 3 2/3 innings, and in three of them went at least five innings. He split two decisions and had three no-decisions. In only one of those instances did he allow more than two runs.
This was markedly different. His walks-to-outs ratio was 7-8. His balls-to-strike ratio was, remarkably, 41-32. In one 30-pitch sequence in the third, he missed the strikezone 21 times.
"It's happened to all of us," Sele said. And, in fact, it did happen to him -- twice. But Sele pitched five and 6 2/3 innings in his two seven-walk nights and won one of the games.
"I know the feeling," said former Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman, who had come to Shea to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. "You just lose the plate and can't find it again. It's a terrible feeling."
His command wasn't too bad.
When one pitcher is particularly wild, and the opposing pitcher also lacks control, the caustic press box line is, "He's got the mound so screwed up, nobody can pitch." So, maybe it was partially Koosman's fault.
"Don't blame me," Koosman said, kiddingly. "When I went out there, I even asked him, 'What side [of the rubber] do you throw from?' I threw my one pitch from the other side."
As ineffective as Perez was, the damage hardly was insurmountable for a team that scored eight times against the Phillies bullpen on Monday. And the Mets did score one run each in the fourth and fifth innings against winning pitcher Adam Eaton (1-1). But the Phillies scored once in the sixth and seventh against Sele and produced their second victory in eighth games.
The Mets allowed as many hits as they produced, five. But 11 walks, two hits batsmen (one by Pedro Feliciano) and a balk (by Feliciano) were more than enough to fuel the Phillies' sputtering offense. Feliciano loaded the bases in the eighth on an error, a walk and the hit batsman.
Otherwise, the evening was relatively painless for an announced crowd of 41,927. David Wright singled in the ninth inning to extend his sixth-month hitting streak to 20 games and delight those who had lingered. And a funny hop prevented Jimmy Rollins from making a play on a ground ball in the sixth. They liked that, too. Shea loves to hate its villains. So far, Perez isn't one. But as he said: "Tomorrow is another day."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.