In Sunday afternoon’s game, Mike Pelfrey entered the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead. He had thrown 90 pitches entering the frame, had retired his last seven batters, and was in the midst of a three-hit gem.
After getting the first batter on a ground out, Pelfrey gave up back-to-back doubles to Eugenio Velez (his second hit of the day) and Randy Winn which tied the game at 2-2.
After that run scoring double, Mets manager Jerry Manuel trudged to the mound to remove his starting pitcher during the 8th inning "mess." He brought in another right-handed pitcher, Brian Stokes, who got Freddie Sanchez swinging for the second out. After an intentional pass to Pablo Sandoval, Manuel brought in Pedro Feliciano to face the lefty swinging Fred Lewis, knowing full well the Giants had Ryan Garko on the bench to pinch hit.
But Jerry was in one of his Jerry moments, eschewing the future for the present, and proceeded with his mix-and-match madness. Feliciano ended up getting Garko to line out to end the inning, much to the delight of Mets TV broadcaster Gary Cohen.
I have to ask a question: What is more important, winning a meaningless game in mid-August for a team which is not going anywhere (meaning the Mets), or letting your No. 2 starter Pelfrey get out of one of his own jams late in a game?
Similar to how Joba is being babied by the Yankees, Pelfrey is treated like a 14-year-old entering his freshman year of high school. Pelfrey is no baby, but is a 25-year-old full grown man. And at 25 years of age, he should be past the Verducci rules.
Pelfrey also has tremendous mechanics, throws free and easy, and was not laboring at all.
At his point of the season, I say Manuel needs to let Pelfrey get out of late inning jams. Even if the Mets were in a divisional or wild card race, Manuel would need to let Pelfrey pitch. Manuel needs to understand that if Pelfrey is to develop into a top pitcher, he needs to learn how to clean up his own mess.
Cleaning up 8th inning messes will only help Pelfrey down the line when tough situations occur to him early or late in future games. If Pelfrey could of gotten out of that 8th inning jam on his own, then it would have been a boost to his confidence that he can be that go-to starting pitcher, a tough No. 2 behind Johan Santana—at least until Santana asks out of New York.
Even if Pelfrey gave up another couple of hits and ended up losing 3-2 on his own accord, it would be better for him to get a decision (even if it was a loss) than being taken out with the game on the line. Pelfrey was pulled after back-to-back doubles, leaving with the negativity that surrounds giving up the lead.
Pelfrey never got the opportunity to leave on a high note by getting out of that jam, and even if he would have received the L, it would have been his decision and not the manager's decision.
Starting pitchers are getting fewer and fewer decisions each year, and it is a problem when they begin to think that 6 or 7 innings is a quality start, but don't have a factor in the decision.
Manuel needs to realize that this season doesn't count anymore, and that it is better to build for the future and to make the New York Mets team as good as it can be for future years, even if MANUEL IS NOT HERE TO DO THE MANAGING.
Let's hope that Pelfrey is allowed to clean up after himself the rest of the season, and can build upon his experiences, both good and bad.
But it likely will never happen.