Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Oh, For the Sake of Momentum

I keep writing about the coming of age of Mike Pelfrey as if he's going to, at some point, revert back to his old, inconsistent self. But the more time passes and the more he continues to pitch like the stud #1 pick we drafted, it's clear that that's really not the case at all.

Perhaps the Giants aren't the best barometer for this, but I think it's safe to say it now, now that he's won 5 consecutive starts, with 3 more very good starts before this streak began, that Mike Pelfrey has officially arrived as a Major League pitcher.

It's not as though Pelfrey has been completely lights out over this 8-start run, but he's made big pitches and gotten big outs when he needed to. Last night in the first inning was a prime example. After loading the bases with 2 outs on an error, a hit batsman and an infield single, Pelfrey reached back for a little something extra to strike out John Bowker for the 3rd out. His offense, in turn, walked off the field and came up with 3 runs for him in the bottom of the 1st against Tim Lincecum, who's no pushover in his own right. This pretty much set the tone for the game. Pelfrey went on to dominate the Giants over the next 6 innings, and the Mets won without breaking much of a sweat, carrying the momentum from their victories in Philadelphia into this series.

For the first time this season, it actually appears like the Mets are going to build on some of their positive victories, and now, the momentum that they built up over the weekend in Philadelphia may actually carry them for a little while. At least, that's how it appears. I was pretty well convinced that after Monday's near-miss, the Mets would predictably go back in the tank. But after they jumped a very good pitcher in Lincecum (who appears to deliver the ball in an almost Japanese-style motion, particularly when he works from the stretch) and won going away last night, and with Philly getting shut out by the Cardinals, the Mets all of a sudden are only a game and a half out of 1st place. 3 or 4 weeks ago I was pretty sure that the Mets would be 14 games out by the All Star break. But when the Mets were really put up against the wall during last week's 8-game road trip, the team responded by going 5-3, with 3 wins against the team they're pursuing for 1st place, and apparently knocking the wind out of their sails in the process.

The signs are encouraging, for once. For the first time this season, this team looks alive. Particularly Pelfrey, who's pitching with confidence and guts, popping his fastball in the mid 90s and getting batters to drill his sinker into the ground. This is more like it. It's nice when you can feel comfortable sending a pitcher to the mound and knowing you're going to get a good outing. You can feel that way now with Pelfrey. Last month, when I went to the Mets/DBacks game where Pelfrey pitched against Webb, we were expecting an 8-0 washout, with Webb throwing a 2-hit shutout. That was, perhaps, where this streak started for Pelfrey, who ended up throwing shutout ball into the 9th. That was the corner for him, and it seems like he hasn't looked back from there. Since then, he's been the kind of pitcher we've expected him to be since his tantalizing spring of 2007.

Compared to the Hell on Wheels he used to be.

(is that with two "F"s?)

(Cut to Melora Walters snorting cocaine off her living room table as John C. Reilly knocks on her door.)

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