PHILADELPHIA -- Usually, when Terry Collins tells Mike Pelfrey that his work day is over despite a manageable pitch count, Pelfrey argues.
"Are you sure?" is the right-hander's go-to response. Anything for an extra inning, an extra batter -- whatever rope his manager is willing to extend.
But the script changed when Pelfrey returned to Citizens Bank Park's visiting dugout after six innings and 99 pitches on Sunday, holding a one-run lead in an eventual 8-2 loss to the Phillies. Collins, as usual, told his starter that he was done for the day.
"And today was the first time I didn't fight him," Pelfrey said, "because my stuff was not great."
How an argument might have changed the script is impossible to tell. All the Mets know is that they might have avoided what happened in the seventh and eighth innings, which saw the Phillies convert a throwing error, a wild pitch, two walks and six hits into seven late runs against a trio of relievers.
It was the type of rally that has often left the Mets flustered in recent years. And yet on Sunday, in the context of their first series victory in Philadelphia since 2010, they could not harp too much about sour endings.
"You have to keep your perspective," Pelfrey said. "If you would have come to us on Thursday or Friday and said, 'Hey, you guys are going to win two out of three,' I think we would have been happy with it. Obviously, we came in and won the first two, and you change it to, 'Hey, let's win all three.' That didn't work out and we're disappointed, but you have to keep that in perspective. We came in here and played great."
For most of the afternoon, Pelfrey was a key reason why. After allowing a run on consecutive hits by the first three batters he faced, Pelfrey kept the Phillies scoreless despite surrendering five more hits -- all singles -- and two walks over six innings. He did it mostly by abandoning his sinker at times, relying more heavily on his curveball and splitter.
So when Ike Davis homered off Phillies starter Cole Hamels to give the Mets an early lead, they began believing that they could sweep the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park for the first time in years.
"Obviously, we want to win every game," Davis said. "We want to sweep them."
But Collins told Pelfrey that he was done, Pelfrey did not fight him, and the league's fifth-ranked bullpen took over.
Things unraveled quickly.
Ramon Ramirez gave up a pair of one-out singles in the seventh, and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Ty Wigginton then tied the score with a sacrifice fly before Laynce Nix drove home Hunter Pence on a fly-ball double.
Though the Mets were down merely a run at that point, Hamels kept cruising, saying later, "I think I've become very good at just starting back over."
And Ruben Tejada didn't help matters one inning later, throwing wide of first on a routine ground ball. The ensuing two-out walks issued by Manny Acosta led to Wigginton's bases-loaded triple, which put the game -- and the sweep -- out of reach.
"You get greedy," Pelfrey said. "You win the first two, and you're like, 'We're going to sweep this right now.' We tried to go do that today and it didn't work out. But let's keep that in perspective."
Pelfrey's preferred perspective is that the Mets are 6-3 through their first three series, with all of those victories coming against division opponents. His preferred perspective is that the club has already weathered what could have been a major injury to David Wright, who should play every day going forward. His preferred perspective is that four of the seven runs charged to New York's bullpen were unearned, hinting that this is still a vastly improved group. His preferred perspective is that the Mets have been winning without major contributions from Jason Bay or Davis, whose home run snapped a 2-for-28 skid.
Then again, in the aftermath of a loss, Pelfrey's preferred perspective is easier stated than enjoyed.
"We came in here against the team that everybody's favoring to win the division," Collins said. "I know they're banged up a little bit, but we came in and won two out of three. We've got to take advantage. We're on the road. We'll get on the plane and have a sandwich, and get ready for tomorrow."