After yet another paltry effort from their bullpen, the NL East-leading Mets hope Pelfrey can continue his surge when he takes the mound in the finale of a four-game series with the Houston Astros on Monday night.
New York’s bullpen was showing signs of stabilizing during the first five games of the team’s seven-game homestand, throwing 10 shutout innings. But the Mets (72-59) were done in by poor relief pitching Sunday, losing 6-4 in 10 innings to the Astros (66-64).
Aaron Heilman was charged with a blown save and Pedro Feliciano gave up two runs in the 10th as New York fell to 1-5 versus Houston this season. The Mets’ bullpen, currently with closer Billy Wagner (forearm) on the 15-day disabled list, has the fifth-most blown saves in the majors with 22 and has a 5.79 ERA since the All-Star break.
“We have played, for a long period of time, good baseball,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel told the team’s official Web site. “Right now is not the time to not be executing pitches. … It’s just not the time, but we are in a good spot.”
Pelfrey (12-8, 3.86 ERA), whose emergence has helped put New York atop the NL East, gave the Mets’ relievers a break in his last start. He pitched a three-hitter for his first career complete game Wednesday night as New York beat Atlanta 6-3, improving to 7-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 14 starts at Shea Stadium.
The 24-year-old right-hander is 10-2 since May 31. Pelfrey, though, has struggled in three career starts against Houston, going 1-2 with a 6.32 ERA.
New York could use a strong effort from Pelfrey as it tries to avoid its first three-game losing streak since dropping four in a row from July 30-Aug. 3, getting swept in a three-game series with Houston during that skid.
The Mets will now be facing Brian Moehler (9-4, 3.87 ERA), who is 5-0 with a 3.47 ERA in his last eight outings. He also has won four straight starts on the road, posting a 2.31 ERA.
The right-hander’s last start was on the road, and he gave up two runs - one earned - and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings as Houston beat Milwaukee 5-2 on Tuesday night.
Moehler is 2-4 with a 3.03 ERA in four starts and three relief appearances versus the Mets.
New York center fielder Carlos Beltran has hit .563 (9-for-16) against Moehler and is coming off a big game. Beltran ended an 0-for-12 slump by hitting two homers Sunday, but the Mets wasted the slugger’s 24th career multihomer game.
Houston, meanwhile, is heating up at the plate, scoring 14 runs in its last two games after being held to two in its previous two contests. Brad Ausmus led off the 10th Sunday with his second homer of the season, and Darin Erstad connected for his third later in the inning.
“You can’t win without contributions from all 25 players,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “That’s one thing that long, grueling schedule will bring to light. … You’ve got to use everybody.”
Houston prevailed despite missing first baseman Lance Berkman, who was given the day off after Saturday’s night game to rest his sore left hamstring. He’s expected back in the lineup Monday.
Berkman is 4-for-7 (.571) with two homers and a double against Pelfrey.