Murphy's four RBIs power Pelfrey, Mets
Righty allows one run in eight innings; K-Rod saves 30th
NEW YORK -- The spate of debilitating injuries aside, the Mets' season has been undermined by other developments, not the least of which have been the shortfall performances of Mike Pelfrey and Daniel Murphy. Neither has provided as much as the club had forecast in March when it characterized Pelfrey as the No. 2 starting pitcher and identified Murphy as the everyday left fielder. The club overstated its expectations, and since then, the players have underproduced.
Each had his moments, though, in the Mets' first 137 games, and in the 138th, both provided glimpses of what the club had anticipated.
It all made for a mostly stress-free Sunday afternoon at Citi Field and a victory that all but assures that this unkind Mets season will not produce 100 losses. With Pelfrey pitching effectively for eight innings and Murphy driving in four runs, the Mets disposed of the fading Cubs in a 4-2 victory. Now they have won 62 games, and one more victory in their remaining 25 games will spare them from the three-digit indignity.
More to the point Sunday were the recovery performance by Pelfrey and three run-scoring hits -- a single, two-run triple and home run -- by Murphy.
Pelfrey completed the eighth inning for the first time in 27 starts this season and became the second Mets starter to win at least 10 games -- Johan Santana won 13 games before undergoing season-ending left elbow surgery.
Pelfrey surrendered five hits, one walk and one run, striking out five. And he did so with merely 105 pitches, with 25 coming in the seventh inning and 10 to his final batter, Derrek Lee, in the eighth. Lee struck out.
"I threw the kitchen sink at him," Pelfrey said. "It was a good way to finish."
The economy, velocity, movement and purpose of his pitches delighted his colleagues, and might have put an end to Pelfrey's scalding self-deprecation had he allowed it. But while assessing the fine performance that put his record at 10-10, Pelfrey took shots at himself.
"I know I haven't been what people expected," Pelfrey said, adding: "The last couple of starts have been embarrassing," and "I've been a dsappointment to my teammates and myself." Etcetera.
The sting of his previous start -- seven runs on five walks and six hits in four innings against the Rockies on Tuesday -- still was smarting even after Pelfrey had performed so comprehensively in his first career appearance against the Cubs. But now he has a performance he can carry to an ensuing start -- Saturday against the Phillies -- that is encouraging and worth recalling.
"I enjoyed myself today," Pelfrey said after he finally let up on himself. "I was pretty good."
Pelfrey threw 70 strikes, creating a Santana-like ratio, and most were two-seam fastballs with the natural sink that opposing batters don't appreciate.
"When he pounds the strike zone like that," Murphy said, "he's as good as anyone. That's the Mike Pelfrey I expect to see the rest of the season."
Pelfrey had been encouraged -- read: ordered -- to return to the pitch that distinguished him at his brighter moments last season. Directly after his loss to the Rockies, he had an extended meeting with manager Jerry Manuel.
"Exclusively encouraging," Pelfrey said of their discussion. "He told me he expects a lot for me. I told him I did, too."
Then, team sage Alex Cora sat with Pelfrey in the dugout Friday night and tried to weed out the self-doubts that had covered the pitcher's confidence. Cora gave Pelfrey a carrot.
"He reminded me I had five more starts and that I could win 14 games," Pelfrey said. "I thought I had a pretty good year last year when I won 13."
The Mets produced a 4-1 lead before Pelfrey departed, scoring twice in the seventh on Murphy's two-out triple to the warning track in center field against reliever Kevin Gregg. The Cubs scored a run in the ninth against Frankie Rodriguez, who earned his 30th save.
Murphy's home run came against losing pitcher Randy Wells after one out in the fourth inning and afforded Pelfrey a 1-0 lead. It also put Murphy's season total, nine, one ahead of those of Carlos Beltran and David Wright, and second to only that of team leader Gary Sheffield, who has 10.
The Cubs scored in the next half-inning when Geovany Soto doubled into the left-field corner after Jeff Baker had led off with a single, the third hit against Pelfrey. Cory Sullivan's retrieval of Soto's base hit took some time, and Anderson Hernandez, the first cutoff man, allowed the relay to bounce beyond him to Luis Castillo. The relay to the plate was late.
The Mets regained the lead in the fifth with an unearned run produced after Wells (10-8) retired the first two batters. Castillo singled to center before Aramis Ramirez misplayed Wright's ground ball for an error that advanced Castillo to second. Murphy followed with a single up the middle that made him the second Mets player with more than 50 RBIs. Wright has 59, six more than his teammate.
The second-most productive game of Murphy's career -- five RBIs on May 27 stands as the most productive -- put the Mets' winning percentage at .667 in the 75 games in which they score at least four runs. They have lost 46 of 57 when they have scored three or fewer. It also enabled them to win a series for the first time since the last day of July, when they won three of four games against the Rockies.
Not that much of all that matters nearly so much as what Pelfrey accomplished Sunday. Murphy, who routinely sidesteps recognition, said as much: "We won because of what he did. He pitched great."
But offense does matter. Evidence: The Mets are winless in the nine games in which they haven't scored.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.