It was the Murph and Pelf Show at Citi Field on Sunday as Daniel Murphy provided the offense and Mike Pelfrey gave the Mets (and himself) a much-needed strong pitching performance. The one-two punch lifted the Mets to a 4-2 victory over the Cubs and gave them their first series victory in five weeks.
The game started out with Mike Pelfrey and Cubs’ pitcher Randy Wells trading quick innings and economizing their pitch counts. It was still scoreless in the bottom of the fourth inning when Daniel Murphy stepped up to the plate. It wasn’t a scoreless tie for long. Murphy smoked a 1-1 pitch into the Pepsi Porch above the Subway sign to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
The lead didn’t last long as Pelfrey gave it up in the fifth inning. Jeff Baker’s single and Geovany Soto’s double tied the game for the Cubs, but fortunately for Pelfrey and the Mets, the Cubs were not able to take the lead in the inning.
The Mets came right back in their half of the fifth inning and Daniel Murphy was again smack dab in the middle of it. After Pelfrey and Angel Pagan both grounded out to start the inning, Luis Castillo hit what appeared to be a meaningless two-out single. David Wright then hit a ground ball that seemed to confuse Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez. He backed up and played the in-between hop but muffed the play for an error. Up came cleanup hitter Daniel Murphy who untied the game again, this time with an RBI single to score Castillo, giving the Mets a 2-1 lead.
Pelfrey continued to pitch effectively and just as important, kept his pitch count down which allowed him and his sinker to befuddle the Cubs deep into the game. He still had a one-run game to contend with, but that all changed in the bottom of the seventh when the rally began and ended with the two stars of the Murph and Pelf Show.
Mike Pelfrey started off the inning with a single to right. Angel Pagan laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line and was able to beat it out for an infield hit. Luis Castillo failed to bunt the runners over and eventually struck out after an eight-pitch at-bat. David Wright reached on a fielder’s choice that was not a double play because of the good takeout slide at second base by Angel Pagan. The slide allowed the inning to continue with Wright at first base and Pelfrey at third. This brought up Daniel Murphy and his suddenly booming RBI bat. Murphy dropkicked a ball to deep center field that Sam Fuld turned the wrong way on at first. That false turn proved costly as Fuld failed to catch up to the ball. The shot barely eluded him for a two-run triple, Murphy’s third hit and fourth RBI of the game.
Mike Pelfrey had been on the bases for quite some time in the seventh inning. He could have faltered when he went out to the mound in the eighth inning. But Jerry Manuel was so confident in his starter that not only did he allow Big Pelf to go out there for the eighth inning, he didn’t even have anyone warming up in the bullpen.
Pelfrey had thrown 91 pitches through the first seven innings, so there was still some gas left in his tank. Every bit of that gas was needed when he faced the previous day’s hero, Derrek Lee, after retiring the first two batters with ease. Lee kept fouling off pitch after pitch. Finally, in the tenth pitch of the at-bat, Big Pelf stuck out his tongue, went back into the tank and got Lee to swing and miss at strike three to end the inning and his successful day on the mound.
After a brutal six-game stretch in which he went 1-4 with a 6.09 ERA, Pelfrey was brilliant in his eight innings of work. He gave up one run on five hits, while walking one batter to go along with his five strikeouts, including the final strikeout of Derrek Lee. The eight innings by Big Pelf was his longest performance of the season.
The Mets still had the ninth inning to get through in order to claim their first series victory since winning three out of four games from the Wild Card leading Colorado Rockies at Citi Field from July 27-30. They turned to their closer, Francisco Rodriguez, on his bobblehead day to get the final three outs of the inning. As has happened a bunch of times recently, it didn’t come easy.
Rodriguez was able to retire the first two batters with ease. He struck out Aramis Ramirez on four pitches and got Milton Bradley to line out to Luis Castillo for the second out. However, Jeff Baker was able to draw a walk on a 3-2 pitch from Rodriguez. This was followed by a double down the left field line by Geovany Soto on another 3-2 count. The extra base hit scored Baker from first base and cut the Mets’ lead to 4-2.
After Jerry Manuel and the trainer came out to talk to their closer, they were quickly waved off by Rodriguez, who was ready to pitch to pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome. (Rodriguez later revealed that his left leg had temporarily cramped up.) One pitch and one ground out to first base later and the Mets had their victory over the Cubs, allowing Rodriguez to celebrate his 30th save of the season.
With the win, the Mets have now won three out of four games. They hope to continue their recent winning ways when they take on the Marlins at Citi Field Tuesday night after an unusual Labor Day off-day. The probable pitchers for the 7:10 PM game will be Tim Redding for the Mets and Rick VandenHurk for the Marlins.
Big Pelf might not be able to continue his prime time pitching performance until his next start on Saturday, but the Daniel Murphy portion of the Murph and Pelf Show can continue to heat up the airwaves. The Mets’ newest cleanup hitter has picked up 11 RBI over his last 10 games. The impending return of Carlos Beltran will end the cleanup hitting days of Murphy, but hopefully not his RBI bat. The show will be back on the air Tuesday night against the Florida Marlins. Let’s all tune in to see what the Murph has in store for us then. Until then, stay classy, Flushing.