Mets pound the Houston Astros

March 19, 2009 6:06:15 PM PDT
Mike Pelfrey looks ready for the regular season. The Houston Astros don't. Pelfrey pitched six sharp innings and the New York Mets routed the floundering Astros 12-1 on Thursday, dropping Houston to 1-16-3 this spring.

After winning their Grapefruit League opener Feb. 25 against Washington, the Astros are winless in their last 19 games.

Pelfrey, meanwhile, is getting stronger as the spring goes on. Making his second start since skipping a turn with a strained muscle in his lower left leg, the right-hander was perfect through the first four innings Thursday. He allowed one run and three hits in all, with one walk and three strikeouts.

"I was pleased," Pelfrey said. "I thought I did a good job of locating the ball inside and out. I threw a lot of changeups that I thought were very good, I threw some breaking balls I thought were very good, and I think the biggest part today was I threw some front-door sinkers (to lefties) that I was very pleased with."

The pitch is a new one for Pelfrey, who had only thrown sinkers inside to right-handers and outside to lefties. He saw fifth-starter contender Livan Hernandez throw the pitch a couple of weeks ago and decided to try it in bullpen sessions before implementing it for the first time in Thursday's game.

As for his leg, Pelfrey is not completely healed, but he feels comfortable with where he is.

"The other day I thought it was almost completely gone, and I went out and might have overdone it a little bit. So it's still a little stiff, but I would say it's almost 90 percent gone," he said.

New York took a 5-0 lead in the second inning against starter Wandy Rodriguez, scoring four unearned runs with the help of three hits, two walks, a wild pitch and two throwing errors.

Jose Reyes hit a two-run double with two outs and scored on a throwing error by shortstop Miguel Tejada.

Rodriguez, making his second start since returning from a strained muscle on his left side, walked another batter before a flyout ended his outing. He had a perfect first inning and finished with one strikeout.

"I felt very good today," Rodriguez said. "I threw a lot outside today, so I need to work on my location inside. ... In my second inning, I tried to throw the ball outside, but I missed a lot."

Nick Evans opened the third against Clay Hensley with his third homer of the spring, and Reyes hit another two-run double to make it 8-0.

Houston was outhit 14-5 and finished with four errors.

Evans, in the lineup at first base, had three extra-base hits for the Mets, making his case for a spot on the team. New York manager Jerry Manuel said he'll try Evans in right field on Friday.

"I think if we can somehow create versatility, then he has a pretty good chance of being able to justify him staying," Manuel said. "I have to be able to get him enough at-bats to warrant him staying at the major league level versus getting those consistent plate appearances (in the minors), and if something happens be a guy you can count on in that manner. It will probably be an interesting debate at some point."

Notes: Manuel said the soonest catcher Brian Schneider will play is Sunday. Schneider is out with a strained right calf.