NEW YORK — There are just two games left in the first half of the baseball season. For the Mets, the first half was as much a roller coaster ride as they've had in their history.
One of the worst starts ever, to a possible managerial firing, to being in or around first place with an amazing surge, the Mets have been through everything in 2010.
A big reason for the Mets first-half success was Mike Pelfrey. Last season, Pelfrey won 10 games, he has already won that amount this season. If it weren't for those 10 wins, the Mets would be sitting on only 37 wins and last place in the NL East. The problem is his recent regression.
Since his June 8 start against the Padres when he went nine innings, leaving to a tie score, allowing one run on five hits, Pelfrey has gone 2-2 with a 6.67 ERA. In 28.1 innings pitched, he's given up 43 hits, and has walked 11, striking out only nine, while allowing four home runs.
Pelfrey must revert to his form before this bad five-game stretch. Even more so now with the news that Cliff Lee has been traded to the Texas Rangers. If the Mets had gotten Lee, maybe Pelfrey would have less pressure on him, but that's not the case.
Unless the Mets get Roy Oswalt, no other is better than Pelfrey. The Mets are going to have to ride the current horses they have to the finish line. However, it seems one of their horses is getting left behind.
With the recent struggles of Hisanori Takahashi in the rotation, the Mets can't be serious contenders if Pelfrey remains mediocre.
Four games behind the first-place Braves and facing them today, Pelfrey has a chance against a not-so-powerful hitting lineup to get his game back together. It's obviously his last start before the break, so this would be the perfect game to get it going, to give him the momentum he and his team needs.
Even if he pitches a gem, standing in the Mets way will be Tim Hudson. After a dominant six seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Hudson has been almost as good in his now six seasons with the Braves.
Hudson, who turns 35 on Wednesday, has had a renaissance season after missing virtually all of 2009 with elbow issues. He's 8-4 with a 2.44 ERA in 17 starts, having made every one. He's part of a fantastic Braves starting rotation, and he will be the Mets toughest challenge this weekend.
The Mets don't want to lose this game and run into the "good" Derek Lowe tomorrow, and get swept. This may be the biggest game of the year for the Mets, with a loss pushing them five games out of first place.
The Mets are still having issues with shortstop Jose Reyes, who looked uncomfortable again last night, batting right-handed against a right-hander. On a dive back into second on a pickoff attempt, Reyes got up and started stretching his side, where he has his sour oblique .
If the Mets were just to sit Reyes the final two games, he'd have a whole five days to rest. Not only are the Mets still insisting on playing him this weekend, they are still allowing him to participate in the All-Star game on Tuesday, which doesn't make much sense.
The good news is, they get Carlos Beltran back on Thursday to kick off the second half in San Francisco for a grueling 11-game west coast trip.
Manager Jerry Manuel announced last night, how the rotation will set up after the All-Star break. It'll be a backwards five-through-one order. Dickey, Niese, Pelfrey, Santana, with Takahashi returning after that, unless the Mets make a move for a starting pitcher.
Today's game is huge, and the Mets hope Pelfrey rebounds and the offense can click against Hudson.
Mike Pelfrey vs. Atlanta this season (2 starts)
2-0, 1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, 12 hits, 7 BB, 6 SO
Tim Hudson vs. New York (career)
10-5, 3.77 ERA, 105 IP, 105 hits, 26 BB, 43 SO
2010 season series (New York vs. Atlanta)
April 23: New York 5, Atlanta 2
April 24: New York 3, Atlanta 1
*April 25: New York 1, Atlanta 0
May 17: New York 3, Atlanta 2
May 18: Atlanta 3, New York 2
July 9: Atlanta 4, New York 2
Mets lead series 4-2
*Rain-shortened, five-inning game