Pelfrey learns lesson in loss to Braves
Offense unable to support young righty against Hudson
NEW YORK -- The Mets identified the row of lockers as "Beverly Hills" when Tom Glavine, Al Leiter and Mike Piazza lived there. Now it's Glavine, Billy Wagner and Aaron Heilman, and the mean salary is in the neighborhood of the gross national product of some third world nation. It's where Mike Pelfrey is likely to locker someday if he develops as the Mets anticipate.
For now, Pelftrey lockers in a neighborhood of more modest means. He's on the end on another wall, the locker adjacent to his is assigned to Aaron Sele, and on Sele's other flank is Joe Smith, like Pelfrey, a rookie with high-rent aspirations.
That three-man sequence -- rookie, sage, rookie -- didn't just happen. There was method to it. Charlie Samuels, the man of method who runs the Mets' clubhouse, acknowledges that. The reason, in two words from Pelfrey, is "We talk."
The number of big-league appearances by the two rookies is less than the number of big-league seasons in Sele's resume. So it's not just talk, it's listen, too. Call that section of the clubhouse the Sele Learning Center, even though the 13-year veteran would think that a tad presumptuous.
Pelfrey will return to the Center on Saturday morning and talk and listen. He learned a few things Friday night, when the Braves scored four times in his five innings en route a 7-3 victory. He'll learn more in the morning and thereafter. Pelfrey doesn't know what he doesn't know, but he's pretty sure Sele does.
He needs to find out how to survive when his sinking fastball won't obey, how to adjust when his secondary pitches -- his slider and changeup -- are better than the fastball he identifies as "my bread and butter."
Maybe it wouldn't have mattered much Friday night, because Pelfrey's support system was a veritable no-show for eight innings. Tim Hudson shut down the Mets on five hits, none of which came from the bat of David Wright. The player who had produced the longest hitting streak in club history was hitless in three at-bats. The team that had amassed 28 runs and 46 hits in its previous three games, put two runners in scoring position in eight turns against Hudson.
So Pelfrey's uneven performance -- effective in the second, fourth and fifth innings, faulty in the first and third -- wasn't even the critical component in the Mets' defeat.
Still, he will talk and listen Saturday -- and for a month of Sundays.
"We talk baseball, not just pitching or what he did or didn't do. Or what I did. It's just baseball," Sele said. "Hopefully, it leads to some good exchanges. Those kinds of general baseball discussions have faded away in the game. But we have them in the bullpen, and we have them in here [the clubhouse]."
Chipper Jones may be a topic of discussion. He crushed Pelfrey's 12th pitch, the first one he saw. His two-run homer afforded Hudson (3-0, 0.62 ERA) a margin for error. It also put Jones even with Barry Bonds as the most accomplished active home run hitters against the Mets. Each has 37.
"Just a fastball down the middle. My fastball command was off," Pelfrey said.
Two innings later, Pelfrey's command betrayed him again. He had retired the first two batters. But then he walked Chipper and hit Andruw Jones. A 3-2 pitch in the same "hit-me" location became a two-run double for Brian McCann. And the Mets didn't have a baserunner yet.
That changed in the fourth, when Carlos Beltran drew the first of two walks Hudson allowed. An inning later, Moises Alou had the first of his two hits, the first of two hits in the inning, the first of the seven the Mets would produce against the winning pitcher and his relief, Rafael Soriano. A walk to pinch-hitter David Newhan loaded the bases and gave Hudson pause.
"What in the world was I doing," he asked himself, "Walking a guy [Newhan] to get to this guy [Jose Reyes]?"
But Reyes' hot grounder with base hit intentions was intercepted by second baseman Kelly Johnson and turned into a force out. And the Mets' offense didn't break a sweat again until the ninth. Only then, with Hudson watching, did Beltran triple on a ball that eluded the Gold Glove of Andruw Jones and reached the wall. Beltran scored on an error before Shawn Green hit a two-run home run that made the three unearned the Braves scored in the seventh appear more important.
The Mets' bullpen, mostly effective in the first 14 games, was responsible. Ambiorix Burgos, the second of four Mets relievers, walked in one run -- after Pedro Feliciano had done likewise -- and allowed another to score on a wild pitch. Unearned, because of a throwing error by Reyes, but tainted nonetheless.
All and all, it wasn't such a wonderful Mets night, a little too nostalgic for their tastes with the Braves having their way at Shea, with Jones doing the heavy lifting and the Braves leaving as the first-place team in the division.
This loss was merely the Mets' fifth in 15 games, but their third in four games against the Braves. The Braves are talking, too.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.