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Pelfry dominates, Braves lose again

POSTED: August 24, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Frank Franklin III /The Associated Press

Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones tosses his bat after striking out during the first inning against the New York Mets on Wednesday in New York. Jones was 0-3 at the plate as the Braves lost the game 6-3.

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NEW YORK — As soon as Mike Pelfrey emerged from the dugout for the ninth inning, the Shea Stadium crowd roared its approval.

The big right-hander had come close before, but this time he was determined to finish the job.

Pelfrey pitched a three-hitter for his first career complete game and David Wright homered to lead the New York Mets over the sloppy Atlanta Braves 6-3 on Wednesday night.

“Anytime you can go out there and throw a complete game, it’s awesome,” Pelfrey said. “The fans got into it and started cheering and a standing ovation — anytime that happens it’s great.”

Pelfrey (12-8) also delivered at the plate, hitting an RBI single in a five-run first inning, when the NL East leaders took advantage of two Atlanta errors.

“That’s huge. Anytime you can get that kind of run support early in the game, it kind of takes pressure off you,” Pelfrey said. “You don’t have to be as perfect. You have a little cushion and it allows you to relax.”

Daniel Murphy hit a two-run single and Fernando Tatis also drove in a run to help the surging Mets, who have won eight of nine and 11 of 14. They remained 11/2 games ahead of second-place Philadelphia.

“It’s great that we’re in a little bit of a groove now, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves,” catcher Brian Schneider said. “There’s a lot of baseball left.”

Braves starter Jair Jurrjens (11-9) gave up six runs — four earned — and six hits in five innings.

Pelfrey walked three and struck out three in his 42nd major league start, improving to 10-2 since May 31. He threw 108 pitches and retired his final 11 batters in a game that lasted just 2 hours, 8 minutes.

The key inning for Pelfrey was the sixth, when Atlanta loaded the bases with nobody out on a bunt single followed by two walks. But the 24-year-old right-hander limited the damage.

One run scored on a double-play grounder by cleanup batter Brian McCann, and another on a wild pitch that cut New York’s lead to 6-3. Pelfrey got Mark Kotsay on an inning-ending flyout and did not allow another base runner the rest of the way.

“He was on the edges all night,” a dejected Chipper Jones said quietly after striking out twice. “He always had good stuff. He throws a heavy ball.”

It was the second time in four games that a Mets starter went the distance on a three-hitter. Johan Santana shut out Pittsburgh on Sunday. New York starters are 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA in the past eight games.

Wright hit his 24th homer leading off the fifth, making it 6-1, and the Mets never had to use their shaky bullpen, which is missing injured closer Billy Wagner.

The Mets want to make sure they don’t put too many innings on Pelfrey’s young arm this season, but manager Jerry Manuel left his starter in the game as he sailed through the last three innings on 26 pitches.

Manuel said the team will simply monitor Pelfrey’s workload the rest of the way.

“As long as I feel good physically, I don’t see it being an issue,” Pelfrey said. “And I feel good.”

The Braves have lost nine of 10, falling a season-worst 15 games under .500.

Argenis Reyes’ single and consecutive two-out walks by Jurrjens in the first brought up Murphy, who fouled off three two-strike pitches before grounding a single through the middle.

It was the latest example of savvy hitting by Murphy, a surprising rookie who spent most of the season at Double-A Binghamton before getting called up from Triple-A on Aug. 2.

It also was another bases-loaded hit for the Mets, who snapped a 3-for-42 slide with the sacks full on Carlos Delgado’s go-ahead double in the eighth Tuesday night.

Tatis then hit a slow roller toward third. Jones came in and gloved the ball but threw wildly to first. Tatis was credited with an RBI infield single, and Jones was charged with an error that allowed another run to score.

Schneider reached on a throwing error by shortstop Yunel Escobar and Pelfrey lined the next pitch through the right side for his seventh major league hit and second RBI.

“Everything went wrong in the first inning. That’s the frustrating thing about baseball,” Jurrjens said. “If we make those plays, they only get two runs. We’d still be playing right now.”

The Mets have scored in the first inning in 10 of their last 13 games. They have 104 first-inning runs, most in the majors.

Atlanta trimmed its deficit to 5-1 on Gregor Blanco’s two-out RBI single in the third.

Notes: The Mets have tossed three complete games in their last 23 games. They had two complete games last season. ... The starting time of the Phillies-Mets game on Sept. 7 was changed to 8:05 p.m. to accommodate ESPN. ... Atlanta placed 1B Casey Kotchman on the bereavement list and recalled OF Brandon Jones from Triple-A Richmond. Kotchman went to Florida to be with his ill mother. ... The Mets surpassed 3 million in attendance for the fifth time.



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