Pelfrey roughed up as Mets fall to Bucs
Beltran's return not enough to overcome pitching woes
PITTSBURGH -- It could have been a mixed doubleheader, the Mets and Pirates in the afternoon and the Red Wings and Penguins in the evening. Mike Pelfrey had good seats for both games and time for dinner in between.
When the first game was complete, though, he had an appetite for none of it. The outcome of the Mets' game -- and the prominent role he played in a lopsided defeat -- sickened Pelfrey to such a degree, he eliminated the hockey game from his agenda.
"It would give the wrong impression," he said. "And I probably wouldn't enjoy it anyway."
He didn't want anyone thinking he could dismiss that loss so readily, because he couldn't; didn't want anyone to think he didn't care, because he does. So Pelfrey stood up his buddy, Brian Schneider, and chartered to D.C. with everyone else.
The Mets had endured the unfathomable, the unacceptable and the unsettling in the afternoon. They were undone again by the Buccos. The scoreboard said they were beaten, 11-6. Their center fielder said they were embarrassed, not by the score so much as by the circumstance. They had been swept by a team they considered inferior; hat-tricked, dealt a third successive defeat at the confluence of three rivers by the team they had swept in New York last month.
"It was awful. I feel awful," Pelfrey said.
He had been the losing pitcher and, in his mind, the primary factor in what was nothing less than a spanking. On getaway day, he got away with nothing. Fourteen of the 25 batters he faced reached base. He surrendered nine runs, eight of them earned, and nine hits and four walks, all in a mere 3 2/3 innings. One run scored on a bases-loaded walk, a career-first for him.
Pelfrey knew all that too well, so he characterized the 59th start of his big league career as "the worst outing of my career. ... I was absolutely terrible."
And no one quarreled with those assessments.
He allowed four runs in the first inning and, after the Mets had scored three in the second, one more in the second -- it was unearned. He appeared to right himself in the third against the bottom of the order, but allowed four more runs in the fourth, one scoring after he was replaced by Ken Takahashi, the first of four Mets relievers. The start was his shortest since April, 25, 2007.
"I thought he would work through it," manager Jerry Manuel said. "He has historically. For today, he just didn't. Just chalk it up to a bad outing, a real bad outing."
More distressing than Pelfrey's performance, the loss and the sweep, was a matter with potentially longer-term implications. J.J. Putz experienced sharp pain in his right elbow, not an unprecedented development, while pitching in the seventh inning. He was to travel to New York on Friday for more examination.
He allowed three hits and three runs that increased the Pirates' total to one less than the Mets had allowed in losses to the Cardinals in April, and the Red Sox last month.
Putz's pain was another element in a thoroughly miserable four-day stay here: Losses, illness, injury.
"It feels like we've been here for a month," Manuel said.
The Mets had won 18 of 26 games before they arrived. They had spent 12 days in first place. And their starting pitching had improved. Then, they lost games started by their three most effective starters: Livan Hernandez (4-1), Johan Santana (7-3 after losing Wednesday) and Pelfrey (now 4-2). And they were outscored, 22-12, by a team that, before the third game, ranked 12th in the National League in runs.
It wasn't only the rotation and Putz's elbow that undermined them. And that's what troubled Carlos Beltran enough to abandon the usual postgame diplomacy and snipe at the Pirates as he expressed his dissatisfaction with the Mets' circumstances.
"I know they're a big league team," he said. "But we're better than them. We're better than them. We know we're better than them.
"I don't know about anybody else, but being swept, I feel embarrassed, us coming here and losing three games, three games with this team. We have to play better, no doubt. We have to take this personal. It can't happen."
But it did. The Mets were swept in three games here for the first time since September 2006. Then, the sweep delayed their clinching the division championship. PNC stood for "Pour No Champagne." This time, the sweep may be another indication that champagne is unlikely. So many things are going wrong -- injuries to Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Ryan Church. And who knows what will be found when Putz's elbow is examined?
"Hopefully, this turns around," David Wright said. "Our best shot is to get the regular guys back and put this behind us. Our bats came alive today, so that's a good sign."
Wright, who had one hit and eight strikeouts in 20 previous at-bats before Thursday, had two hits, a walk and an RBI. Beltran hit his seventh home run, a near-home run double and walked in his first three plate appearances after missing 3 1/2 games because of stomach virus. Fernando Martinez had two hits and an RBI.
But the Pirates had 13 hits, 12 singles, four walks, and a hit batsman and scored three more runs than they had at Citi Field last month.
That sweep was part of a seven-game winning streak that bouyed the Mets and underscored their aspirations.
"We were playing so well, then we fell flat in Pittsburgh," Wright said. "Now, we have to move forward and play better baseball in D.C."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.