Mike Pelfrey is Your Unlikely Pillar of Strength

Seven shutout innings at just the right time

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Mike Pelfrey was cruising right along on Thursday afternoon when it looked like his past was about to catch up with him.

    In the fith inning, with the Mets up 5-0, Pelfrey started his motion and abruptly stopped without delivering a pitch to Melvin Mora. A balk was called and you wondered if all the good work he'd turned in to that point was going to go right down the drain. 

    This wasn't the most stable of pitchers on the mound. Pelfrey balked three times in a loss to the Giants last season and had more balks than any other pitcher in the big leagues in 2009. His conversations with himself on the mound sometimes veered into lunatic on the subway territory, a scenario that seemed less far-fetched when he started seeing a sports psychologist during the offseason. 

    And, to top it all off, there was the start in the very same Coors Field last September that ended with Pelfrey doing his best Forrest Gump impersonation. Pelfrey, fresh off of getting pulled in the fourth inning of a loss to the Rockies, decided that it was a good time to start running laps around the stadium's parking lot. Round and round he went, every step making it seem less and less like he had the head to harness the obvious ability in his right arm.

    Then came Thursday's balk and it was hard not to watch what happened next through barely parted fingers, cringing a bit at the meltdown that was sure to follow on the next pitch to Mora. Yet it never came. Pelfrey did what he'd been doing all day and threw a nasty splitter that shattered Mora's bat and ended the inning with a grounder to third. It was an easy ride into the seventh from there and a much needed win for the Mets.

    That's two straight good starts for Pelfrey and, if this newfound mental approach is for real, reason to hope that they've found the second starter they so desperately need behind Johan Santana. Even more important, perhaps, is the chance to exhale Pelfrey provided after four losses of increasing dismay. It'll last right up until the moment Oliver Perez takes his final warmup toss in St. Louis Friday night.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.