Zack Wheeler got things off to a good start trying to even up the series against the Washington Nationals. He ran into some early trouble when Eric Young Jr. misplayed what became a Jayson Werth double to move Denard Span to third with one out. Wheeler rebounded quickly, striking out the returning Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond to end the first. He carried that over, striking out Adam LaRoche and getting the Nats in order in the second inning, and again in the third (with a strikeout of Ryan Zimmerman).
Sep 11, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Mets got their first baserunner by way of a Josh Satin walk (what else) with one out in the second, but Matt den Dekker struck out and Travis d’Arnaud grounded out to Dan Haren to strand him there. Ruben Tejada, making his return to Queens for the first time since being injured on May 29th (technically first time since May 28th; he was injured in the Bronx but now I’m just being pedantic), grounded to third in his first at bat as Dan Haren set the side down in the third.
Wheeler’s set down streak ended with an out in the fourth as Bryce Harper narrowly edged out an infield hit to third base. His next pitch kicked off the bottom of d’Arnaud’s glove for a passed ball, moving Harper to second. Harper moved to third on the next pitch as Ian Desmond grounded out to Duda at first. Wheeler once again came up big, striking out Adam Laroche on a low pitch to end it.
Juan Lagares singled to left to lead off the Mets’ half of the inning, giving the Mets their first hit of the evening. Lagares would eventually steal second, but it would be moot as Josh Satin would strike out on the next pitch to send the game to the fifth inning.
The Nationals would finally crack through in the sixth with a Ryan Zimmerman home run to left center (that just cleared the fence). Wheeler would almost escape before walking Adam LaRoche and pushing Desmond to second. Nonetheless, the next pitch Wilson Ramos would fly out to shallow right field.
Wheeler would again run into issues in the seventh. Steve Lombardozzi hit a pinch hit single to left; Denard Span reached on a fielder’s choice and went to third on Ryan Zimmerman’s single. Though Zimmerman would steal second base, Wheeler would get Jayson Werth to ground out to third to end a very good start. Wheeler threw 101 pitches (70 strikes), giving up eight hits, one earned run (on the HR), one walk, and six strikeouts.
The Mets would go down from there; Juan Lagares reached on a bunt in the ninth but they would fail to mount any type of comeback.
> The Mets only managed three hits and a walk on the night; failing to score for the second time in this series.
> Ruben Tejada had an uneventful return, going 0-3 with a strikeout. His fielding was fine, but he didn’t seem to be tested.
> Zack Wheeler was excellent. Outside of a pitch that narrowly cleared the wall, he pitched cleanly in and out of danger all night. His only other extra base hit came as a result of a misplay by Eric Young Jr. He muscled up when necessary, and threw quality strikes throughout the game. For all the concern about Wheeler’s first couple of starts, he seems to be putting it together. If so, he, Jonathon Niese, and Dillon Gee could form an excellent rotation foundation should Matt Harvey not be available. The quality of arms in the upper minors and majors speaks for plenty of success to come.
The Mets can’t hit right now. They (for the most part) can field, and they can (for the most part) pitch. David Wright‘s impending return will be a motivational boost for a team looking to add in the offseason. The big name circled is Shin-Soo Choo, who would be an excellent addition – Since 2006, David Wright ranks 15th among MLB hitters in wRC+ (min. 2500 plate appearances). Choo ranks 16th, and should benefit greatly by a return to a corner outfield spot.
In any case, the Mets finish their season series with the Nats tomorrow afternoon, with journeyman Aaron Harang (the second Aaron to start for the Mets this year) making his Mets debut at 1:10PM.