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Pelfrey named NL Player of the Week

Pelfrey named NL Player of the Week

With names like Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez at the front of a starting rotation, a pitcher like Mike Pelfrey can be an afterthought at the start of a season -- especially on a team with the third-highest payroll in baseball.

Besides, coming into 2008, the mouthpiece-wearing, heavy-sinker dropping 24-year-old had logged fewer than 100 innings in his first two seasons, and was penciled in as the No. 5 starter mainly to give Orlando Hernandez time to adjust to a new delivery.

But over the course of the type of winning streak the Mets are having, little-known names start to get bigger. And throughout this last week, Pelfrey's name was as big as the city lights in Times Square.

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The 6-foot-7 right-hander pitched 15 scoreless innings, didn't issue a single walk and won both of his starts en route to being named the Bank of America National League Player of the Week for the first time in his three-year career Monday. Even more significant to his team, he did it in the midst of what has been a resurgence this month.

Now at the All-Star break, New York has gone 11-2 in July, and the club has won nine straight games while seeing its deficit in the NL East drop from 5 1/2 back on July 4 to a half-game entering the celebrated halfway point of the season.

One big reason for that has been Pelfrey.

The Wichita State product has won six straight starts, allowed only one run in his past 22 innings, pitched 16 consecutive scoreless frames and hasn't taken a loss since May 26 -- spanning nine starts.

After a masterful performance Sunday, new manager Jerry Manuel said: "Before this season's over, he's got a chance to leapfrog over some people on our staff."

Why not?

All of a sudden, the kid who was barely good enough to make the Mets' staff in March is tied for first among New York starters in wins (8), and is second in ERA (3.64) and innings (108 2/3).

"Now we feel like we're going to win when he's out there," catcher Brian Schneider said earlier this week. "He's come on so fast. You knew he had talent, but he was having trouble getting to it. Then, boom."

Pelfrey's week ended even better than it began. In the Mets' last game before the All-Star festivities nearby, he turned in perhaps the best start of his young career, keeping the Rockies without a run through eight innings while striking out five and allowing six hits.

It was the kind of outing that impressed his opponents, got his fellow teammates believing and had 51,293 at Shea Stadium chanting his name during a visit to the mound in the eighth inning.

"Back to that game he pitched against us last year, early in the year -- might have been in April -- this guy has come as far as any guy I have seen in a year's time, a little bit over a year," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "[His] command has improved -- movement, life -- he makes pitches. He can start dropping some slow curveballs along with a slider, getting the ball arm side, keeping it glove side, keeping it down."

Added elder statesman and closer Billy Wagner: "Someday, in a couple of years, he'll know more and be out there with everything working, and he'll strike out 17. I won't be shocked. He has that kind of stuff."

But up until his work of art Sunday, Pelfrey's best start of the year had come against 24-year-old Giants sensation Tim Lincecum on Tuesday.

"There were two pretty good young pitchers out there [that night]," Schneider said afterward. "And Mike Pelfrey was the better one."

He sure was.

Pelfrey threw seven scoreless innings while giving up only three hits and striking out five in leading the Mets to a 7-0 victory. Along the way, Pelfrey beat a starter who currently sits at 11-2 with a 2.57 ERA on a Giants team that is 15 games under .500.

"I know I had to pitch well to give my team a chance," Pelfrey said after that start. "We've been scoring a lot for me [45 runs in his previous five starts at that point], but you don't expect to get a lot of runs against a pitcher as good as [Lincecum] is."

Pelfrey's win came in a week loaded with talent and against a list of nominees that included eight pitchers and 22 position players.

They were: Pelfrey's Mets teammates Carlos Beltran (.310, 2 HR, 8 RBIs) and Carlos Delgado (.385, 2 HR, 3 RBIs); Philadelphia's Ryan Howard (.370, 5 HR, 8 RBIs) and Shane Victorino (.393, 2 HR, 6 RBIs); Pittsburgh's Jason Bay (.310, 2 HR, 8 RBIs), Adam LaRoche (.429, 2 HR, 4 RBIs), Nate McLouth (.290, 4 HR, 9 RBIs) and Denny Bautista (2-0, 3.18 ERA, 5 SO); Troy Glaus (.500, 2 HR, 5 RBIs), Ryan Ludwick (.808 SLG, 4 HR, 7 RBIs), Rick Ankiel (.320, 3 HR, 6 RBIs) and Kyle Lohse (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 SO) of the Cardinals; San Diego's Scott Hairston (.391, 2 HR, 4 RBIs), Chase Headley (.409, 2 HR, 7 RBIs) and Jake Peavy (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 SO); Houston's Carlos Lee (.455, 2 HR, 9 RBIs), Kazuo Matsui (.421, 4 2B, 3 SB) and Brandon Backe (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 SO); Florida's Jorge Cantu (.276, 3 HR, 5 RBIs), Hanley Ramirez (.417, 2 HR, 2 RBIs) and Kevin Gregg (5 SV, 0.00 ERA, 3 SO); Mike Fontenot (.375, 2 HR, 5 RBIs) and Ryan Theriot (.407, 11 H, 2 RBIs) of the Cubs; Milwaukee's Dave Bush (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 13 SO) and CC Sabathia (2-0, 2.40 ERA, 14 SO); Cincinnati's Edwin Encarnacion (.444, 2 HR, 3 RBIs) and Jerry Hairston (.421, 1 3B, 3 RBI); Hiroki Kuroda (1-0, 1.72 ERA, 11 SO) of the Dodgers; Arizona's Chad Tracy (.417, 1 HR, 7 RBIs); and Atlanta's Brian McCann (.444, 3 HR, 5 RBIs).

Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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