Pelfrey flirts with no-no, loses to Nats
Mets' aggressiveness doesn't pay off in frustrating defeat
NEW YORK -- As if the banal and the mundane hadn't done enough to these Mets over the first quarter of the season, on Thursday, the bizarre decided to take a few swats.
Yes, Mike Pelfrey pitched one of the best games of his career, but it didn't do him much good. Yes, Jose Reyes attempted to take two bases on a sacrifice bunt, but he was gunned down by a yard. Yes, the Mets played their fourth straight game against the division's least productive team, but they lost it by the narrowest of margins.
Manager Willie Randolph doesn't believe in this whole luck thing -- "Teams make their own breaks," he said. But when bad luck conspires with some blatant faults, the result turns into something like this:
The Mets, sinking lower in the National League East, lost, 1-0, on Thursday to the Nationals. They hung close to the Nats, but never quite close enough.
And "everything," Reyes said, "went perfect for them."
It started, really, with Pelfrey, who was pretty close to perfect himself. Aside from three walks, Pelfrey cruised through one of the better outings of his career, completing six innings of no-hit ball. When Aaron Boone finally did single to open the seventh, however, Pelfrey faced a new problem. His Mets hadn't scored a run, and his margin for error was minimal. Pelfrey couldn't let up one little bit.
But he did let up. One little bit.
The Nationals ultimately scored an inning later on a sacrifice fly, ruining Pelfrey's shutout and sticking him with a loss. It wasn't clear at the time that the Mets would go quietly against Nationals pitching, but it wasn't much of a surprise, either.
Not the way they were hitting against Nationals starter Jason Bergmann, who struck out the last four Mets he faced, and nine in total. Bergmann, recalled from the Minor Leagues for the start, held a 5.39 career ERA entering the game.
He pitched quite well, to be sure. But the Mets may have also helped him along.
"So far, we've been hot and cold, and hot and cold," David Wright said. "We have to get hot and stay hot for a little while, to get that winning attitude and that swagger."
They didn't have it on Thursday, much as they tried.
And they did try -- perhaps a little too hard. One of their few real scoring opportunities came in the eighth inning, when Reyes singled, then, seeing third base open, attempted to run all the way there on Luis Castillo's sacrifice bunt attempt. Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman threw Castillo out at first, then shortstop Cristian Guzman, anticipating the play, sprinted toward third base to cover the bag.
He -- along with Aaron Boone's throw -- arrived just before Reyes.
"He had to make a perfect throw," Reyes said, "and he did it."
And there it is again, that sense that one inch here or one step there might have made a difference. Perhaps it really would have, but almost a full quarter of the way into the season, those inches -- and those losses -- keep adding up. When the Mets remain just off-center in nearly every game they play, that's not luck. That's a trend.
Moises Alou, watching this one from the bench, lamented only that the offense needs to "go back to the shop" and work things out. But there's no one area on which the team might focus. Sometimes the pitchers struggle, and the Mets can't catch up. Other times, such as Thursday, the pitching proves brilliant, and the offense can't take advantage.
And so on this afternoon, the Mets went from hoping for the highest of highs -- Pelfrey made that no-hitter seem possible -- to being resigned to the lowest of lows.
"I'd rather go out there and give up five runs and we get a 'W,'" Pelfrey said. "That's why we're all here. We're here to win games."
Then there's the good news -- the fact that even though these Mets aren't winning enough games, they're still in relatively fine shape. They're still within three games of the division lead, and they still have the talent to bridge that gap.
The Mets know that, of course, though it doesn't ease the frustration. Instead, it was a stunned group of Mets that sat in the dugout, watching Thursday's ninth inning unfold. Still down by a run, Carlos Beltran singled to start the inning, then went nowhere when Nats left fielder Willie Harris made a diving catch on Ryan Church's popup.
Minutes later, now on third base following a steal and a throwing error, Beltran dashed toward home as soon as he heard the crack of Carlos Delgado's bat.
Line drive to first. Double play. Game over.
"It was perfect, that's all," Reyes said. "That doesn't happen very often."
Still, it's happened too often this season for the Mets to stomach. This, one quarter of the way through the season, is not where the Mets wanted to be.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.