There seemed an aura of confidence in Mike Pelfrey last night, even in defeat.
MIAMI _ We have heard these words before from Mike Pelfrey after a disheartening loss.
Talk of losing control, of making bad pitches, of not being able to put the clamps down on an inning.
They sounded different this time.
They werenâ€™t coming from the confused lost pitching soul he was in his first two years with the Mets, but from somebody who seems to have grasped what this is all about.
There was not the undertone of frustration and anxiety, of wondering if he would have to take a bus to his next start.
Pelfreyâ€™s answers after last nightâ€™s 7-5 loss to the Florida Marlins _ coming after victories in his last seven decisions _ were fluid and resonated with self assurance and confidence.
“I will be all right,â€™â€™ Pelfrey said, speaking like he knew it rather than trying to convince doubters.
Pelfrey knew his problem, but couldnâ€™t adjust.
“I didnâ€™t execute pitches,â€™â€™ Pelfrey matter-of-factly said. “I left the ball up. I made bad pitches. I fell behind hitters, and when you do that theyâ€™ll make you pay for it.â€™â€™
All the bills became due in the fourth inning.
Pelfrey breezed through the first three innings and took a 1-0 lead into the fourth _ David Wrightâ€™s run-producing double play grounder in the first _ but things quickly unraveled.
The onslaught began with Jeremy Hermidaâ€™s triple and Jorge Cantuâ€™s single.
Pelfrey kicked himself on the pitch to Hermida.
“It was supposed to be a slider on his back foot, but it was out over the plate,â€™â€™ Pelfrey said.
After Josh Willinghamâ€™s single, Pelfrey seemed on the verge of escaping when he struck out Dan Uggla and got Mike Jacobs on fly to right.
During Pelfreyâ€™s run it was common to see him finish off innings and not give up damage after two outs.
Not last night, as Cody Ross lined a two-run triple to right and John Baker and Josh Johnson _ the opposing pitcher _ followed with RBI doubles.
“It was supposed to be a fastball away,â€™â€™ Pelfrey said of the pitch to Ross.
Only it wasnâ€™t.
“I left the ball up,â€™â€™ Pelfrey said of the pitch Manuel said, “Iâ€™d like to have back.â€™â€™
The pitches to Baker and Johnson werenâ€™t much better, and Pelfrey didnâ€™t come out for the fifth, finishing the night with 75 pitches.
There was something about Pelfrey that suggested he wasnâ€™t going to turn it around, so the thinking became to preserve his arm.
Manuel, of course, had no way of knowing Damion Easley would hit a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh to lift the Mets back into the game.
Entering the game, the Mets had won 10 of his previous 11 starts, but Manuel had some concern in Pelfreyâ€™s pitch count and accumulation of innings in his first full season as a starter.
Would he feel fatigue as John Maine did last year?
“Weâ€™ll watch the pitch count with him,â€™â€™ Manuel said. “Weâ€™re starting to get into unfamiliar territory with him.â€™â€™
The Metsâ€™ thinking about Pelfrey had to be wide open with Manuel sensing a need to keep him fresh if he had to do some juggling later.
The Metsâ€™ pitching concerns are health related, with the team not knowing what to expect when Maine attempts to throw Friday in the bullpen and Pedro Martinez starts a few hours later.
“Iâ€™ll have to see on Maine when I see him Friday whether he is a given or a question,â€™â€™ Manuel said.
As for Martinez, who hasnâ€™t pitched since July 12 because of a strained groin, Manuel must assume the worst.
“With Pedro, you want to believe,â€™â€™ Manuel said. “You want to be optimistic, but you have to be apprehensive.â€™â€™