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Tigers 5, Mets 2: Pelfrey Can't Escape Detroit Rock City

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How do you solve a problem like the strike zone?

Anyone with a guess should let Mike Pelfrey know post haste. The Mets' 2011 Opening Day starter struggled with his command before surrendering five runs (four earned) in a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon. The loss ends a four-game winning streak for the Amazin's and forces Mets fans to describe the team's recent scoring binge in the past tense.

Despite hurling 109 pitches, Pelfrey (4-7) only completed 4 2/3 innings with eight hits, four earned runs, and three strikeouts to show for his efforts. He elicited only three swinging strikes and frequently looked wholly incapable of throwing an out pitch in any capacity, which was highlighted by his inability to induce ground balls early on or even to throw strikes low in the zone.

Those troubles were enough for Justin Verlander, who allowed one run, seven hits, and two walks over seven innings while striking out six in what will not be described as the Detroit ace's best outing of the year. Verlander, who collected his league-leading 11th win of the season, could not quite settle down all afternoon but only paid with a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the top of the second inning.

Detroit's offense finally came alive to provide run support for Verlander just as Pelfrey's luck began to ran out. Austin Jackson and Ramon Santiago contributed RBI singles in the second and third innings respectively while Alex Avila contributed an RBI sac fly in the bottom of the third as well. Fellow Wichita State alum Andy Dirks took Pelfrey deep to right field in the bottom of the fifth for his sixth home run of the season, which followed with Pelfrey's exit two batters later.

While only Jason Pridie failed to reach base for the Mets, none of the Mets position players outside of Murphy and Carlos Beltran -- who hit his 11th home run of the season in the top of the eighth inning -- managed to build upon their success at the plate. Jose Reyes collected two hits for his 42nd multi-hit game of the season (in 81 games), but was caught on the basepaths twice after being doubled up on a Pridie line out in the first inning and being caught stealing second base in the top of the third. Jason Bay also collected two singles for the away team, but was twice left on base.

Some may point to Terry Collins's decision to start Josh Thole as Pelfrey's battery mate in place of Ronny Paulino, who sat for the day game following a night game with a twinged back. Thole hasn't caught for Pelfrey since April 29, but Pelfrey's troubles were largely his own in his lack of an out pitch and a conservative strike zone that Pelfrey simply could not stretch any wider.

Francisco Rodriguez finished his 30th game of the season after coming in to relieve an injured Manny Acosta. Tim Byrdak and D.J. Carrasco also contributed to the bullpen's 3 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball, with no hits surrendered after Byrdak allowed a Brennan Boesch single in the bottom of the sixth.

The Mets now make a Subway Series pit stop as they welcome the New York Yankees for a three-game series at Citi Field commencing Friday night at 7:10pm. Jon Niese will toe the rubber for the Mets against Ivan Nova of the Yankees.

SB Nation Coverage

* Traditional Recap
* Boxscore
* Amazin' Avenue Gamethread
* Bless You Boys Gamethread

Win Probability Added

Big winners: Jose Reyes, +9.1% WPA
Big losers: Mike Pelfrey, -28.5% WPA, Jason Pridie, -18.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Murphy solo home run in the second, +10.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Ramon Santiago two-run single/Angel Pagan error in the third, -17.3% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -25.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: -24.4% WPA
GWRBI!: Ramon Santiago

Game Thread Roll Call

Nice job by TKFJ; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.

Num Name # of Posts
1 TKFJ 116
2 MetsFan4Decades 92
3 Xfactor26 85
4 Syler 66
5 tmu 65
6 Russ 61
7 santana9237 56
8 freakystyley 55
9 astromets 55
10 mistermet 54