Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Zack Attacks With His Arm & Bat In Romp Over Phillies

Zack Wheeler. @Mets.

Zack Wheeler had possibly his best game ever on Tuesday night, as he threw seven shutout innings and he had a home run and three RBI to lead the Mets to a 9-0 win over Philadelphia at Citi Field.

This was Wheeler's second straight strong outing against the Phillies. Last Wednesday in Philadelphia, he allowed three runs on five hits, with three walks and five strikeouts, but was outdueled by Jake Arrieta in a 3-2 Mets loss.

On Tuesday night, Wheeler was in control as he scattered just five hits and allowed no walks, with 11 strikeouts.

It was the fifth double-digit strikeout game of his career and it was punctuated with a run in which he struck out seven straight Phillies from the second to the fourth inning. That is tied for the fourth-longest single-game strikeout streak in team history, per Elias.

In the second inning, the Mets put a rally together against Phillies starter Zach Eflin when Wilson Ramos led off the frame with a walk, and then with two out, Luis Guillorme singled to bring Wheeler to the plate.

Wheeler, who hits from the left side, laced a double down the right field line to bring them home. He then came in when Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez couldn't handle a groundout from Brandon Nimmo that made it 3-0 Mets.

In the fourth, with two outs, Wheeler launched his first career home run to left-center field to send Citi Field into a frenzy and give them a 4-0 lead.

The Mets blew it open in the fifth when Todd Frazier, in his second game since returning from injury, hit a grand slam to make it 8-0, and then tacked on another run on a Wilson Ramos single in the sixth.

Wheeler earned the win in his 100th career start, and he has a 2.32 ERA (24 earned runs in 93.0 innings) over his last 14 home starts going back to May 22, 2018.

This was his third straight quality start and eighth in his last 11 games dating back to August 20, 2018 against San Francisco.

Wheeler's three RBI are a career high and he became the fifth pitcher in franchise history to hit a home run and strikeout 10 or more batters in a game. Other Mets to do it include Jacob DeGrom a few weeks ago on April 3 in Miami, Shawn Estes on June 15, 2002 against the Yankees, Sid Fernandez on September 21, 1989 at St. Louis, and Tom Seaver on May 29, 1973 at San Francisco.

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said of Wheeler, "It sounds like he was the first pitcher to ever throw a hundred and hit a ball a hundred, first pitcher to ever do that. That put him over the top it seems like, and that 's a real stat by the way. He did everything right, he had a great curveball. When he started throwing his curveball early, I was like, 'oh, they might be in trouble.' Had a great slider, threw a couple good splits, and his fastball was electric. His mechanics are synced up, he's feeling good. That's probably one of the best games I've ever seen him throw."

Callaway was then asked if, when it comes to Wheeler, it's all about getting his mechanics in line and allowing the pitches to do what they naturally do, "It is now. I mean, I think in the past, it's been getting him to feel healthy enough to go out and compete. Now that he's been healthy, last year, this year, it's about getting his mechanics synced up. It's not thinking about mechanics, it's just getting yourself into a spot where you stay back just long enough for your arm to catch up, and when he does that, we see it, he's electric and one of the best pitchers in baseball."

Wheeler battled through the first two innings before he really settled in.

In the first, after retiring Andrew McCutchen to open the game, J.T. Realmuto singled, and then Wheeler struck out Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins.

In the second, Maikel Franco led off with a single before Hernandez flew out to center field and Wheeler then struck out Phil Gosselin and Eflin to start his streak of seven straight K's.

Wheeler threw 41 pitches in those first two innings and then became more efficient as the game went on to enable him to throw seven innings with 105 pitches, including 74 strikes.

"A lot of times, that's more the hitters than it is the pitchers," Callaway said of Wheeler keeping his pitch count down in the later innings. "Sometimes, it is the pitchers when they're falling behind, going 3-2, 3-2. It's a good lineup, he's trying to navigate through the lineup the first time, trying to feel them out for what they can do that day. He ended up throwing two innings 41 pitches, then he got a good feel for what was working tonight for him, and he started settling in and making really good pitches and getting outs more efficiently."

Wheeler's two extra-base hits marked the 11th time in Mets history that a pitcher did that. The last instance was on May 11, 2016 when Noah Syndergaard hit two home runs at Dodger Stadium.

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