Verlander wins 11th to stop bleeding against Mets

DETROIT — The New York Mets’ giddy joyride through two of the American League’s division leaders ended Thursday at Comerica Park. While part of the credit goes to Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander, who effectively slowed the Big Met Machine, a large chunk of the blame also belongs on the 6-7 shoulders of Mike Pelfrey.

After scoring 52 runs in the previous four days, the Mets mustered only a Daniel Murphy solo homer off Verlander in a 5-2 loss to the Tigers. As for Pelfrey, he came up small in the showdown, allowing eight hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing since April 29.

But at the halfway point of the season, the Mets are now 41-40 after their 4-2 road trip through Texas and Detroit, taking down the AL West and Central leaders. This weekend, the Mets get a chance to humble a third when the Yankees, currently atop the AL East, visit Citi Field for the final interleague series.

“We’re playing well,” said Carlos Beltran, who homered in the ninth inning off Joaquin Benoit. When asked if the Mets were confident facing the Yankees, Beltran added, “Against anybody. We should be feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

The lone exception on Thursday was Pelfrey, who matched a career high with five walks and labored all afternoon in throwing 109 pitches during his brief stint. Pelfrey (4-7) was responsible for the only two losses on the trip, and since his June 18 complete game, he has a 6.75 ERA with 16 hits and seven walks in 10 2/3 innings.

“My command was bad against the Rangers and it was worse today,” Pelfrey said. “My fastball command was not good at all and I can’t say I had a good secondary pitch either.”

With Verlander (11-3) on the other side, that’s not a recipe for success, and Pelfrey was fortunate to even survive the first inning after he walked the bases loaded. That’s when Pelfrey got Andy Dirks — who homered off Tim Byrdak as a pinch hitter Wednesday night — to pop up foul.

That turned out to be the easiest part of Pelfrey’s afternoon. As much as Verlander labored — by his standards, anyway — in throwing 120 pitches in seven innings, Pelfrey looked sluggish from his opening fastball to Josh Thole. With Ronny Paulino nursing a stiff back, Pelfrey’s personal catcher was on the bench, and he never looked comfortable.

In the third, the Tigers loaded the bases before Alex Avila’s sacrifice fly put them ahead to stay, 2-1. That inning further unraveled when the next batter, Ramon Santiago, smacked a run-scoring single to centerfield and another came in on Angel Pagan’s throwing error. Pelfrey, his pitch-count skyrocketing, plodded to the fifth, when he served up a home run to Dirks and ultimately was chased by Avila’s two-out single.

“The public perception is that he’s our ace and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Terry Collins said. “He could have buckled under any time and he didn’t. In the fifth, he was still standing, and I salute him for that.”

Murphy’s leadoff homer in the second inning gave Pelfrey a brief lead, but the Tigers tied it on Austin Jackson’s two-out, RBI single in the bottom half and never trailed again. Verlander took care of that, even though the Mets made him earn his ninth straight victory. He entered the day tied for the AL lead with a .178 opponents average and the Mets’ seven hits were the most he had allowed since June 4.

After Murphy’s homer, the Mets went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Verlander struck out Jason Pridie and Beltran to strand two in the fifth and Lucas Duda, who tripled in the seventh, was cut down a the plate trying to score on a fly ball to left.

“When we got on base, he would make some quality pitches to get out of the inning — that’s what good pitchers do,” said Jose Reyes, who reached three times but did not score. He also was caught stealing and doubled off second in the first inning.

For once, the Mets’ offense was held in check. But not their enthusiasm heading into this weekend.

“If you’re going to have interleague play, this is the fun part,” Collins said. “We’re going to go home on a positive note.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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