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Mets 2, Astros 1: Mike Pelfrey Might Be Good Again

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The Mets won a game tonight against the Astros, the same team that just swept a four-game series in Philadelphia and took two of four from the Mets in Houston last week. Wins are almost always nice, though they're probably beside the point as we approach the coda of the 2010 season. Even with the win the Mets are seven games back in the Wild Card race and nine games back of the slumping Braves in the NL East. Bigger deficits have been overcome, but the path to the postseason is blocked by multiple teams in each direction and the odds of an improbable surge grow shorter by the day.

Within the macro wins and losses there are smaller victories and defeats. Jose Reyes's injury in Thursday night's game was one such micro defeat, though it doesn't appear to be a serious setback. Tonight, Mike Pelfrey provided a micro victory, a performance he can build upon and a glimmer of the ace-like promise that was on regular display through his first dozen or so starts.

Pelfrey has been terrific in three of his last four starts, and was pretty decent in the non-terrific one. Tonight he threw eight shutout innings, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out four. All four strikeouts were of position players, which is an important distinction, as NL strikeout tallies can often be padded with the less meaningful (in the greater sense) whiffs of the opposing pitcher. A strong finish from Pelfrey this season will make this offseason considerably easier to stomach.

As for the offense tonight, woof. I like Nelson Figueroa and all, but the Mets managed just three hits and were fortunate to get the two runs they did. The first scored on a "sacrifice fly"* by David Wright in the first inning, which was really just a popup to short center field that second baseman Anderson Hernandez had to make while falling away from the infield. Hernandez's bodily momentum was such that Luis Castillo was able to tag up and score from third base.

*As an aside, sacrifice flies don't count as a turn at bat and therefore don't negatively affect a hitter's batting average, but they're almost always just regular fly outs with the singular and fortunate (from the batter's perspective) distinction that a runner happened to be on third base (or second!) at the time. Occasionally a batter will shorten up and explicitly look to put the ball in the air to get the run home, but the vast majority of sacrifice flies don't happen this way. On-base percentage corrects for this by penalizing the batter for not reaching base (this leads to the occasional small-sample anomaly of a player's batting average exceeding his on-base percentage); batting average makes no such correction and treats it as it would a sacrifice bunt. Chalk it up to yet another case where on-base percentage exceeds batting average in usefulness.

The other Mets run scored during a fit of Figueroa wildness in the fourth inning during which he walked three batters, the last a bases-loaded pass to Ruben Tejada to force home Ike Davis. Other than that they managed nothing against the former-everything Figueroa.

This series continues on Saturday night when Brett Myers punches a woman in public takes on Johan Santana.

Poem by Howard Megdal

Eight scoreless, so many pitches from Pelf
(The result of a manager out for himself)
Parnell started the ninth, but it comes as no shock
That three batters in, Jerry turned to Tak
A win, sure, but I'm still not close to believin'
Until wins do more than get Mets back to even