NEW YORK -- When news broke during the offseason that Johan Santana would miss the first half of the 2011 season, much was made of whether Mike Pelfrey could fill the void and be the Mets' ace.
Though Pelfrey's season has been rocky to say the least, for this Saturday night at Citi Field he was everything the Mets needed him to be. After the Mets suffered a pair of tough losses Thursday and Friday, Pelfrey stopped the bleeding, with a 6-1 win over the Angels.
The big righty hurled a complete game, yielding one run, and rode an offensive outburst from the lineup behind him. It was the first nine-inning complete game for the Mets this season and Pelfrey's third of his career.
"As a coaching staff we talked today, and we said, 'This is when you need your No. 1 guy to step up,'" Mets manager Terry Collins said. "After the last two nights, you need your No. 1 guy to give you a game. And he absolutely did."
Pelfrey was strong from the start, striking out Maicer Izturis looking to begin the game and not allowing a runner to reach base the first time through the order.
He was able to do this by locating his pitches inside the strike zone, throwing 83 of his 123 pitches for strikes and not walking a batter for a third consecutive start.
Pelfrey established the inner half of the plate with his fastball in order to set up a curveball he felt was more potent than usual.
Pelfrey used his trademark sinker to help generate 11 ground-ball outs and struck out five.
"I felt like it was [my best game of the season]," Pelfrey said. "It all started with fastball command, it was good ... then I was able to throw the secondary pitches for strikes. I thought the curveball was pretty good today, which is pretty rare."
With Pelfrey cruising, the Mets got on the board in the third with a rally started by a one-out single from -- who else? -- Jose Reyes.
The dynamic shortstop then stole second base and advanced to third on a groundout by Justin Turner. Then Carlos Beltran knocked in the first run off Angels starter Dan Haren with a single up the middle, the 17th time this year Beltran has driven Reyes in.
The Mets' running game was a problem for Haren throughout the evening as each of the first four Mets to score stole second base before doing so. The Angels were unable to throw out a basestealer in four tries.
"Even before the game, we looked at a lot of video of the guy," Reyes said. "We knew he was going to be slow to home plate, so we just wanted to get on and make something happen."
"They stole [four] bases, interrupted my rhythm," Haren said. "I tried to get quick to home. With Reyes out there, it's tough. The easiest way to get through it is to not let him get on base. I was trying to vary my looks."
Angel Pagan led off the bottom of the fourth with a hard grounder that glanced off the glove of shortstop Erick Aybar for a single, then stole second base. Jason Bay followed with a single to score Pagan and stole second himself. He came home on a fielding error by first baseman Russell Branyan to make it a 3-0 game.
Bay's RBI was the first of his two hits, the struggling left fielder's third multihit game in four days.
"The RBI single just really loosened up the entire team," Collins said. "He got that hit and the energy on the bench -- everyone on the bench was so happy for him and so excited. I thought it was the biggest hit of the game."
From there, the floodgates opened.
Reyes led off the fifth with a walk, stole his 26th base and scored his 53rd run on a frozen rope to right by Turner.
Then Beltran gave the Mets their first extra-base hit of the evening, walloping a 2-1 pitch over the Shea Bridge behind right-center field. The shot was estimated to have gone 460 feet and chased Haren from the game with the Angels trailing, 6-0.
Pelfrey allowed the Halos' only run of the game in the next inning, when Mark Trumbo hit a home run to right-center field.
Though Pelfrey had thrown 108 pitches heading into the final frame, Collins felt he deserved the opportunity to go back out for the ninth.
With the fans cheering his every strike, Pelfrey fanned Aybar and got Torii Hunter to hit a foul popup to third base. As the crowd rose to its feet, Pelfrey induced a ground ball by Bobby Abreu to second base, only for it to be booted by Turner.
But Pelfrey persevered, getting Vernon Wells to pop out to first base on the first pitch to end the game.
"It doesn't happen as much these days as it did in the past, but it's fun to go out there and finish what you start," Pelfrey said.
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.