Feb 23, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (65) throws in the fourth inning during a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas 51's Lose 13-12 Debacle - Bullpen Blows Zack Wheeler's Opportunity For First Win Of Season


Zack Wheeler made his fifth start of the regular season Thursday evening against the visiting Tacoma Rainiers.  Today, his first win of the season remains elusive as ever.  The Mets farmhand continues to strikeout batters at an impressive clip, but the rest of his game is still lagging behind.  In his latest start, Wheeler pitched five innings, surrendered six hits and allowed five earned runs.  He walked three batters and struck out seven.  He threw 102 pitches while facing twenty-five batters.  He hit one Rainier player, and surrendered two home runs, as his earned run average ballooned to 5.79.

Zack Wheeler has now issued fifteen walks, and allowed twenty-six hits in 23.1 innings this season.  His best start of the season was his third, which came on April 14th, when he pitched 5.1 innings, allowed six hits and three earned runs.  He didn’t walk a single batter that game, and struck out eight before exiting.

Wheeler left last night’s game on the winning side of a 9-5 game.  At one point, the 51′s led 7-1 after three innings.  But come the ninth inning, the Las Vegas bullpen unfortunately managed to put themselves in a position to either save or blow Zack Wheelers first victory of the season.  In what was now a 10-6 game, Tacoma worked into a no out, bases loaded situation.  Back to back walks issued by Vegas’ bullpen made it a 10-8 game.  A third consecutive walk closed Las Vegas’ lead to one.  By this time, manager Wally Backman had worn a path to the pitcher’s mound.  A pop-up, finally invoked an infield fly rule for the first out.  Unfortunately, an ensuing base hit advanced the runners one base to tie the score at 10.  The bullpen was far from through.  They allowed a total of seven runs in the ninth inning to effectively detonate Zack Wheeler’s opportunity for a victory.  A wild pitch made the score 11-10.  A sac-fly made it 12-10.  And a long single off the wall turned the game into a 13-10 disaster.  Aided by Tacoma’s fifth error of the game, the 51′s fought back to score two runs in the home ninth, but nothing more.  This game finally came to an end in a 13-12 final.  This was Zack Wheeler’s fourth no decision in five starts.

HIGHLIGHTS

* Omar Quintanilla hit a two-run home run in the third, and had three RBI for the game.

* First baseman Josh Satin continues to rake.  He was three for five, with a double, an RBI, and three runs scored.  He is batting .362 this season.

* Right fielder Andrew Brown, two for four, three RBI.  He is batting .351 this season.

LOWLIGHTS

* Las Vegas bullpen – five pitchers combined to allow eight hits and eight earned runs in four innings of work.  They walked three batters and struck out six.

* Switching places with Juan Lagares, Kirk Nieuwenhuis had one hit in five trips to the plate, with four strikeouts.

Carlos Torres is scheduled to make Friday’s start for the 51′s against the Tacoma Rainiers in game two of their four game series.

Commentary from Danny Abriano:

I watched this game up to the point where Wheeler exited in the sixth with a runner on first and no outs.  After allowing back to back doubles to open the first, Wheeler retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced.  From the third batter in the first to the first batter in the fifth, he was dominant.  His fastball sat between 96 and 99 MPH, and he also had his hard slider and curve working (he got strikeouts with both of those pitches).

In the fifth, after allowing a leadoff homer, Wheeler’s start turned.  After issuing a walk, an infield single (that almost ended the inning), and another walk, Wheeler found himself in a bases loaded situation with two outs.  One good pitch would’ve gotten him out of the jam, but he served up a two run double to give up his third and fourth runs of the night.

The most important thing, however, is the fact that Wheeler’s stuff has been tremendous.  That assertion is backed up by the fact that Wheeler is striking out 10.8 hitter per 9 – the best rate of his career.  At a certain point, it’ll be wise for the Mets to get Wheeler the hell out of Vegas (regardless of his league inflated ERA).  As long as he continues to strike out hitters at this rate and keeps his walks down, there’s no reason to have him toil in the ridiculously hitter friendly PCL.

 

Commentary from Sam Maxwell:

It’s not like they are destroying him from the moment the first pitch is thrown, and he’s outta there at 1/3 of an inning. As Danny said, his stuff has been tremendous, and our fears of the Vegas factor appear to be in play. At some point, even though I have mentioned before my gut instinct that Terry Collins is not the long-term solution for this team, you want to have the best pitchers out there giving you a chance to win every day, no matter how much of a feeler season this might be. Zack Wheeler’s development will be better served in the Citi soon, which will be a great thing for the Mets bullpen with Jeremy Hefner most likely being the long-man they currently don’t have…no matter how much fun it is to see Robert Carson bat.

 

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