Less than a month ago, the New York Mets fired their manager and didn’t appear to be much of a factor in the NL East. Outstanding pitching has changed that.
On Sunday night, they’ll go for their longest winning streak in more than eight years and try to sweep the Colorado Rockies in the final game before the All-Star break.
The Mets (50-44) fired Willie Randolph June 16 after a disappointing start to the season. At the time of the firing, they were 34-35 and in a third-place tie in the East, 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Phillies.
Now, the Mets have won eight in a row to improve to a season-best six games above .500, and move to within one-half game of Philadelphia for the division lead. The bullpen has been a big part of the resurgence, allowing two hits in 18 1-3 innings over the last five games.
A ninth consecutive win would give the Mets their longest winning streak since April 16-25, 2000, and could move them atop the division if the Phillies lose to Arizona. New York hasn’t led the East since April 19, when it was 10-6.
“It feels good,” said Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, who is 14-for-35 (.400) during the winning streak. “We’re playing together as a team, we’ve got a lot of communication. That’s why we’ve been successful.”
The Mets got closer to Philadelphia on Sunday after they beat Colorado 3-0 - their 17th win in the last 19 meetings between the teams at Shea Stadium. Pedro Martinez and four relievers combined for a one-hitter, although the two-time Cy Young Award winner was forced to leave the game after four innings with tightness in his right shoulder.
Mike Pelfrey (7-6, 3.93 ERA), who is riding a career-high five game winning streak with a 3.23 ERA in that span, will try to follow up Saturday’s gem with another of his own.
The 24-year-old right-hander was outstanding Tuesday, yielding three hits with five strikeouts in seven innings while outpitching All-Star Tim Lincecum in a 7-0 win over San Francisco.
Pelfrey, who hasn’t lost since May 26 against Florida, has allowed one run and nine hits in 14 innings over his last two starts.
One of the victories during Pelfrey’s streak came at Colorado (39-56) on June 22, when he allowed three hits with five strikeouts and five walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-1 win. However, he was pounded in his only career home start against the Rockies, giving up six runs and eight hits in three innings of an 11-5 loss on April 25, 2007.
The Rockies are looking to snap a three-game slide, during which they have mustered only two runs and eight hits. They’ve scored just once and have four total hits in this series.
“We didn’t really get anything going at any particular point in time,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said after Saturday’s defeat. “The walks were our best play.”
Colorado starter Mark Redman (2-4, 7.07) will again try for his first win since April 16.
The left-hander is 0-1 while allowing six runs and 12 hits in 11 innings in two starts since returning to the major leagues. He had been 0-2 with an 11.15 ERA in his previous four games - three starts - which led to his demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 11.
Redman lasted five innings Tuesday, yielding four runs and six hits in a 7-3 loss at Milwaukee.