Citizens Bank Park continues to be a house of horrors for New York Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey.
Despite lowering his career ERA at the Bank from 9.55 to 9.38, Pelfrey was tagged for four earned runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings and took the loss, as the Mets were trounced by the Philadelphia Phillies, 10-3, on Friday night.
“When I left a ball over the plate they hit it, obviously,” Pelfrey said. “That’s what good hitters do. I’m gonna tip my cap. I felt fine. I thought I was pretty efficient, but like I said, when I left the ball over the plate, they hit it. I think the bottom line was, I got out-pitched. [Vance] Worley was a lot better than I was. You just tip your cap to him and try to be better next time.”
Manager Terry Collins initially wasn’t going to pitch Pelfrey (1-3, 7.39 ERA), who had been battling an illness which caused him to lose 11 pounds, but the 27-year-old managed to convince his skipper to give him the ball.
Unfortunately, the move backfired.
After surrendering just two hits through the first three innings of his outing, Pelfrey finally ran into trouble in the fourth.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins led off the frame with a single, and cleanup hitter Ryan Howard followed by clubbing a first-pitch four-seam fastball from Pelfrey into the second-deck of the right-field stands, allowing the Phillies to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
“I was conscious of Jimmy, so I did a slide step, quick pitch,” said Pelfrey, who allowed three stolen bases. “I was trying to come inside, and it came right back over the middle. He made me pay for it.
“I didn’t stay behind it so it ran back over the middle. It was supposed to stay straight.”
Then, in the fifth, Pelfrey surrendered back-to-back singles by center fielder Shane Victorino and second baseman Placido Polanco. He got Rollins to pop out to short, but drilled Howard with a pitch up and in to load the bases, and right fielder Ben Francisco followed with a two-run single, prompting Collins to lift Pelfrey after he’d thrown just 72 pitches, 45 of which for strikes.
Through his first six starts of the 2011 season, Pelfrey has thrown more than 5 1/3 innings just once -- Apr. 22 when he gave up one run over seven innings in a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. By comparison, Pelfrey went 4-0 with a 0.69 ERA -- allowing just two earned runs over 26 innings -- in April, 2010.
Still, despite his early-season struggles, Pelfrey was encouraged by his latest outing.
“I thought the sinker was the best it’s been all year,” Pelfrey said.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen agreed, although he wished Pelfrey would’ve made some different pitches in those troublesome spots.
“I’m anxious to see his next 25 starts,” Warthen said. “He’s close to where he needs to be.”
Warthen and Pelfrey made a mechanical adjustment in their last bullpen session, which Warthen believes will get Pelfrey to “stay on top” of the baseball, allowing his sinker to get more downward movement.
“He was trying to get too far inside the ball on his sinker, and it was doing more cutting and losing velocity,” Warthen said. “So, basically we lowered the hand position and got the hand across the top of the baseball and started getting his natural sink again.”
Collins took the blame for sending Pelfrey out to the mound, but Warthen stuck behind their decision and wasn’t about to make an excuses.
“The guy wanted to go out there and pitch. He was a 15-game winner last year. He deserved the opportunity to pitch,” Warthen said. “That’s wonderful for Terry to say that, but this guy is a good, solid pitcher and for three innings he showed that.”