When the Mets traded Carlos Beltran and his expiring contract to San Francisco in July 2011, they envisioned the Single-A pitcher they brought back in return, Zack Wheeler, becoming a staple in their starting five and a dominating force in their rotation for years to come. It has taken roughly seven years, but the Mets’ hopes back then have officially come to fruition.
On Friday night, the 28-year-old turned in his latest masterpiece, holding the Marlins to just two runs across seven innings, while allowing only four hits and racking up eight punch outs. While his rotation mate Jacob deGrom’s inability to earn consistent victories (through no fault of his own) has generated quite a bit of press, Wheeler won his fifth straight start on Friday, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
The game started out uneventful, with both sides going quietly in the first two frames, but New York used some two-out magic in the third to open the scoring. Jeff McNeil singled to start the rally, and then scampered to 3rd on an opposite field single from Wilmer Flores. Aided by some slick body contorting from Flores to avoid the inning ending with a runner being hit by a batted ball, Michael Conforto then snuck a ground ball up the middle to score McNeil and give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
Wheeler, meanwhile, was cruising, zipping through the first four innings without allowing a hit. Just when your mind started drifting a few innings ahead of itself and fantasizing about a special kind of night, Martin Prado brought you back to earth with a leadoff single in the fifth, but Wheeler easily navigated his way through the mini threat.
In the sixth, the Mets were able to bust the game open, and knock Miami starter Jose Urena out of the game in the process. Conforto led off the inning with a walk, and two batters later reached third on a hit from Todd Frazier. Somewhat surprisingly productive pick-up Austin Jackson then plated Conforto with a run scoring single up the middle, a hit that sent Urena to the showers. On came Drew Rucinski out of the Marlins’ bullpen, and he was unable to put out the fire. His first pitch hit Kevin Plawecki to load the bases, and, two batters later, Amed Rosario drove in two with his third hit of the night, completing a three-run frame that put the Mets up 4-0.
Wheeler kept dominating into the seventh, where he struck out the first two batters, but then a brief blip put a damper on his night. Rafael Ortega singled to center, an at-bat that pushed Wheeler over the 100-pitch mark, and Miguel Rojas followed with a long two-run homer to break up the shutout attempt and end Wheeler’s 23-inning scoreless streak. The blast cut the New York lead in half, and while Wheeler did strike out J.T. Riddle to end the inning, he looked visibly irritated as he walked off the mound.
While the Marlins temporarily had climbed back into the game, that development was exceptionally short lived.
In the next half inning, the Mets were able to get those two runs right back when Todd Frazier and Jackson both singled and then scored on a Plawecki hit against Miami righty Javy Guerra.
Seth Lugo pitched a 1-2-3 eighth for New York before Jerry Blevins and Drew Smith combined to finish off the 6-2 victory in the ninth.
Tonight the Mets will look to win for the fourth time in five contests, when they send righty Corey Oswalt to the mound against Dan Straily.
Photo credit: Jason Linlove – USA Today Sports