Yup, we’re still here, for whatever reason. Zack Wheeler took the mound against Joe Musgrove mere hours after Jacob deGrom got screwed out of yet another win. Austin Jackson was getting the start in FF because the recently resurgent Michael Conforto has a sore thumb, leaving us less than optimistic for a better offensive performance this time around.
In what, once again, could be his last start as a Met, Wheeler was brilliant. He allowed plenty of baserunners, as he is wont to do, but also racked up the strikeouts while keeping the Pirates off the board. Wheeler danced around baserunners in every inning except the fourth, but struck out seven en route to six shutout innings, lowering his ERA on the season to 4.11.
The Mets have never seen a great pitching performance they didn’t want to squander, and they did their damnedest to deGrom Wheeler. Joe Musgrove made the Mets look bad, keeping them hitless for the first four innings and inducing a plethora of weak ground balls. Notably, Jackson was not the problem, despite our pregame consternation. He was the Mets’ first base runner in the second (a walk) and managed the Mets’ first hit leading off the fifth.
Wheeler has been watching deGrom get screwed over all season, and he seems to have learned his lesson. Doing his best Thanos-in-Avengers-1-post-credit-scene impression, Wheeler did it himself, driving in Guillorme with a double into the right field corner to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. That gave Wheeler doubles in back-to-back starts. As a fun aside, Jose Reyes has two doubles since June 26 in 55 at-bats.
Totally unnecessary digs on Reyes aside (editor’s note: they are necessary), the Mets squandered several opportunities to add to their lead. Singles from Jackson and Kevin Plawecki put two men on with one out in the top of the seventh, but Luis Guillorme managed only a ground out. Conforto was intentionally walked as a pinch-hitter and Amed Rosario grounded out to strand the bases loaded. They loaded the bases again in the eighth on a walk and two hit batters, but two foul pop-ups wasted that opportunity as well.
Thankfully, the Mets bullpen made those missed opportunities irrelevant. Seth Lugo tossed two scoreless innings and Anthony Swarzak closed things out with a perfect ninth, giving Wheeler’s three straight wins for the first time in his career. It’s also the first time the Mets have won 1-0 in Pittsburgh with the pitcher driving in the only run since they did so twice in one day in 1969 – Jerry Koosman and Don Cardwell were the starters for that doubleheader.
The win puts the Mets at 44-59, and they’ll have an off day today before heading to Washington on Tuesday. We’ll see if there’s anybody missing or any new faces on Tuesday as the trade deadline approaches.
Thoughts from the Game
I really don’t think the Mets should trade Zack Wheeler. Yes, he’s an injury waiting to happen, but he’s looked like a different, blossoming pitcher over the last month. More importantly, the Mets’ starting pitching depth isn’t great, and mid-rotation starters can be expensive, prohibitively-so for the Mets and their laughable budget. Unless a team shows up offering multiple top 10 prospects that can help the Mets soon, it seems like holding Wheeler to give things another go next season is the better move.
In bullpen observations, Anthony Swarzak finally looks healthy. Oblique injuries linger, so it’s not entirely surprising that he’s struggled for much of the year after getting hurt in spring training. The Mets are going to need to rebuild their bullpen almost entirely for next season with Jeurys Familia and Jerry Blevins gone and Robert Gsellman struggling so mightily, but Swarzak returning to 2017 form would be a big help.
Other Mets News
It’s not directly Mets news, but the Yankees traded a reliever with a sub-0.5 ERA at Double-A this season for $1.5 million in international slot money. This is relevant since the Mets got $1 million in slot money in the Familia trade and attempted to sell it as a big get. In reality, it’s a relatively inconsequential, low value piece and the market demonstrating as such makes an already weak return for Familia appear even worse.
Photo credit: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports