04/21/10 12:28 AM ET
Reyes' four-hit night plenty for Pelfrey
Right-hander tosses seven scoreless to beat Cubs
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
He wasn't, so the Mets beat the Cubs instead. They outplayed a borderline moribund team. A victory, a winning streak, modest as it may be, another handsome and resolute performance by Mike Pelfrey and -- drum roll and trumpets -- a Jose Reyes revival, replete with a triple, a stolen base, two RBIs and three other hits.
Citi Field hasn't seen too many nights so uplifting in its year-plus of operation. Not only did the Mets outscore the Cubbies, 4-0, but the positives outnumbered the negatives. It was akin to a doubleheader sweep for the guys in white. (All right, off-white).
Even those who contributed little to the team's second successive victory -- see the middle of the batting order -- could smile as they dressed and departed. The oh-fors didn't sting quite so much. It felt so good not to feel so bad.
Pelfrey was the primary force in this one. He provided seven more scoreless innings, continuing an emergence that emboldens the Mets and reinforces the notion that there is more to their five-man rotation than one man and four mannequins. His resolve evident, Pelfrey was dominating at times in his third victory in three starts.
But Reyes is who he is, the high-octane fuel for this team. And on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, he was who he used to be and hadn't been for about 11 months. He provided two Reyes Runs of a different sort; he drove them in with his first triple since April 29 last year. He also clapped his hands when he reached third base, a certain sign of good stuff for the Mets, singled three times and knew enough to step away from the microphone after he had sung the first five words of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during pregame preparations.
"I stopped because I want to have an all-good day," he said.
"A win and four hits, I'll take that any day. ... I was happy to be here," Reyes said, "but I wasn't happy the way I was playing. Too many strikeouts. That's not me."
Jerry Manuel had predicted a good day for his still-recovering shortstop. After the manager had given Reyes most of the day off Monday, he suggested his leadoff man was likely to play at a level more consistent with his reputation upon his return. How prescient.
"Every now and then, I can be right about something," Manuel said.
The manager said he had detected flaws in Reyes' swing, glitches that had helped create an 0-for-18 decline. The path of his swing was wrong, Manuel said. But he sensed a solution that came from Reyes would be more beneficial than one he might suggest. So Dr. Manuel waited, offered his patient man a mental health day and time to eliminate the weariness than set in after 20 innings Saturday.
"He has a kind of electric body when he settles it down," Manuel said. "When he's too active, it slows him down."
Reyes had appeared to be playing in Jell-O in St. Louis over the weekend. That image was nowhere to be found Tuesday. Indeed, Reyes said, "The game slowed down for me," a sign that he finally has regained his feel and rhythm. He acknowledged being something less than optimum. But he had found the throttle.
He and Luis Castillo were responsible for six of the Mets' nine hits. Fernando Tatis, who hit a two-run pinch-hit home run in the eighth, was responsible for the other runs. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth positions in the Mets' order -- manned by David Wright, Jason Bay, Jeff Francoeur and rookie Ike Davis, playing his second game -- produced no hits, a double-play ground ball, seven strikeouts, two walks and a hit batsman in 16 plate appearances.
So someone else had to contribute. And that was Pelfrey, who is asserting himself in a manner reminiscent of special, competitive starting pitchers. Three nights after he pitched in relief, he extended his scoreless streak to 19 innings, equaling his career high. He surrendered merely three hits, none in the first four innings, and walked three, none in the last four. His improving cutter produced four of his six strikeouts. He retired the side in order twice and extended to six the number of consecutive games in which Mets starters haven't allowed a run in the first four innings.
He also became the first pitcher to win two starts with a save in between in a five-day period since 1988, when John Candelaria achieved that arcane feat for the Yankees. The last Mets pitcher to throw at least 19 scoreless innings was Billy Wagner, three years ago.
And Pelfrey wanted more. Despite his relief pitching and the early stage of the season, fatigue wasn't an issue for him. He wanted the eighth inning that was handled by Igarashi, who strained his left hamstring retrieving a bunt, and Fernando Nieve. Pelfrey scored from first base on Reyes' triple in the second and showed no effect in the third. (The Cubs could have thrown out Reyes at third for the third out before Pelfrey scored if they had played it properly.)
Pelfrey's stature on the club improves seemingly each time he pitches. His teammates are impressed and influenced by his resolve. He proudly accepts their acknowledgments.
"I want them to get to where when they know it's my day to pitch, they think, 'We're going to win,'" Pelfrey said. "That hasn't been there for a while. ... Johan [Santana] is who he is. But that doesn't mean that I can't get to be something like him and get guys thinking positive on my days, too.
"We haven't had the start we wanted, but days like today, there are more positives than negatives. They can get us going."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.