PHILADELPHIA -- Narrow miss. Narrow miss.
After everything broke right for the Mets for nearly two weeks, Mike Pelfrey's scoreless-innings streak abruptly ended in the fourth inning Saturday afternoon.
Not long afterward, the Mets' eight-game winning streak ended, too, with a 10-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. It was the second-largest margin of victory in a Phillies shutout of the Amazin's in the rivalry's history.
The script nearly unfolded differently, though.
After middle infielders Jose Reyes and Alex Cora came oh-so-close to making retreating fourth-inning catches on the outfield grass -- the balls touched their gloves -- Philadelphia exploded for a six-run frame against Pelfrey.
The outburst snapped the right-hander's scoreless streak at 27 innings -- the longest by a Met since reliever Mark Guthrie had an identical streak in 2002, and 4 2/3 innings shy of Jerry Koosman's franchise record set in 1973.
Pelfrey -- who in April went 4-0, matched Nolan Ryan's 1970 franchise record for best March/April ERA at 0.69 and had a 20th-inning save in St. Louis -- was dealt his first 2010 defeat in an eagerly awaited matchup with Phillies ace Roy Halladay.
Chase Utley opened the decisive inning with a soft liner that sent Reyes scampering backward. It was not an easy play, but the shortstop appeared to have run down the ball, only to have it bounce in and out of his glove for a single. Ryan Howard followed with a clean single, but still Pelfrey nearly wiggled out. Jayson Werth blooped a ball over Cora's head at second base. Cora retreated and attempted an over-the-shoulder catch. For a split second, it appeared he succeeded. But the ball ultimately dropped to the grass and Utley scored. Had Cora held on, Utley would have been doubled off second base.
"Tipped it," Cora said. "To be honest with you, I saw it and ran to a spot and I threw my glove out there. But it gets to that area, diving is not an option. When I turned around, you see Utley running, and I'm like, 'Wow, it's tough.' That's a double play right there if I make that play."
Said Reyes: "The ball just came out of my glove. I should make that play. I feel like I got it. Like I said, I need to make that play. We can't give any chance to these guys, Philly, because they've got a very good ballclub. We give extra outs, that's what happens."
Center fielder Angel Pagan did throw out Juan Castro trying to score from second later in the inning, but Halladay's two-out single on a four-seam fastball from Pelfrey extended the fourth, allowing Shane Victorino to bat. Victorino launched a three-run homer to cap the six-run barrage against Pelfrey -- the largest output ever against the right-hander in an inning.
Pelfrey completed the fourth, but manager Jerry Manuel replaced him with pinch hitter Gary Matthews Jr. the following half-inning, then inserted left-hander Raul Valdes for mop-up duty on the 88-degree day. Pelfrey threw 82 pitches.
"It happens. That's part of the game," Pelfrey said about the missed fielding opportunities. "Sometimes you make a bad pitch and a guy hits a bullet at somebody. It's unfortunate those balls got in there. The second one, if that ball was caught, Utley was already standing at home plate, so it would have been a double play. That's just the way it works sometimes."
Halladay became the first Phillie to shut out the Mets since Jon Lieber in 2006. It was Halladay's 17th career shutout. He has five complete games in his last eight starts. The ace had required 73 pitches to complete four innings, but needed only 45 pitches for the remaining five innings after the Phillies got to Pelfrey.
"When you have a 'six-spot' with a guy like Halladay on the mound, it's pretty much ballgame," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "... If anything, he just pounded the strike zone more."