When the Mets said goodbye to Carlos Beltran in the summer of 2011, they expected great things from the kid who was supposed to make the trade worth it. And through the first 17 starts of his career, Zack Wheeler has made the deal worth it, but perhaps not more so than the day he returned to the West Coast to face the team that gave him up.
#9 – Wheeler by the Bay (July 10)
The Mets were coming off a series win in Milwaukee and had taken the first two from the Giants in San Francisco. Looking to complete the afternoon sweep was young Zack Wheeler, who was making his fifth career start since his June debut. The first four starts had been a mixed bag for Wheeler: he was 2-1 but had an ERA over 4.00, had walked a ton, and hadn’t gotten past six innings in either start. Now he was on the mound to face not only the defending World Champions, not only a perfect game laureate in Matt Cain, but the team that had drafted him back in 2009 and saw him disposable enough to give away for two months of Carlos Beltran in 2011.
The drama was short-lived, however, as the Mets got to Cain early and often. Eric Young led off with a walk and promptly stole second, advancing to third on an errant through from reigning MVP Buster Posey. Daniel Murphy singled in Young to make it 1-0 and give Wheeler a quick cushion. But the cushion was about to get even more cushion-like: after Cain walked the bases loaded around the first two outs of the inning, John Buck laced a single to center to plate Murphy and Ike Davis to make it 3-0. That was all for Cain, as he was quickly yanked in favor of Mike Kickham.
With the immediate stress gone, Wheeler went to work on the Giants, striking out three through the first two innings and not allowing a hit till the fourth. Marlon Byrd provided some more insurance in the top of the fifth with a two-run shot that just cleared the wall in dead center; it was Byrd’s second home run in as many days, as his grand slam the night before iced it in the top of the eighth.
In the top of the sixth, Wheeler showed of his skills with the bat. Two batters after Buck’s double, Zack placed a double just over the head of Gregor Blanco in center to plate another run. Murphy’s double two batters later scored Wheeler, and the Mets had a 7-0 lead.
Wheeler ran into some trouble towards the end of his outing, stranding a runner at second in the sixth and letting one run home in the seventh. But he struck out Nick Noonan to end the San Fran threat and finish the day with his best start as a major leaguer (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K). The New York bullpen then took care of business and finished off a Giant sweep 7-2.
The Mets would drop the next two on the road in Pittsburgh but took a close Sunday win into the All-Star Break. As for Wheeler, he would finish the year 7-5 in 17 starts, throwing an even 100 innings with a 3.42 ERA. He struck out 84 batters but also walked 46 and gave up 10 home runs. While there are certainly things to improve upon, the future is bright for Zack Wheeler as a cornerstone of the Mets’ rotation. And with Matt Harvey due to miss all of next year, Wheeler’s presence is all the more important.
July 10: the 9th most Amazin’ game of 2013. On Monday, we’ll revisit a start by the Mets’ other ace for our #8 game.
Amazin’ Ten of 2013
#10 – Hot O in the Cold TC (April 12)
#9 – Wheeler by the Bay (July 10)