Wheeler finally wins, Mets beat Washington 7-4
NEW YORK (AP) — If this was indeed his final start as a member of the New York Mets, Zack Wheeler finally did something he hadn’t done since May 20, 2017: win a game at Citi Field.
The subject of trade talk, Wheeler pitched into the eighth inning, Michael Conforto homered and the Mets defeated the Washington Nationals, 7-4 Saturday afternoon.
“It’s in the back of my head I guess,” Wheeler said of the trade rumors. “My mind’s right here right now and I’m trying to help this team win.”
Wheeler (3-6) was brilliant for seven innings before tiring in the eighth in his longest outing since a complete game on June 19, 2014. He struck out seven and allowed just one hit through the first five innings. The 28-year old right-hander opened the season with a victory against Miami on April 11 and defeated the Padres two weeks later. The victory snapped a 13-start winless streak.
“I feel like I’m pitching a lot better than my numbers right now,” Wheeler commented. “I feel comfortable, I feel in command out there.”
Appearing healthy after struggling in 2017 following missing two seasons to injuries, Wheeler has nine quality starts and has pitched at least six innings on 13 occasions. He’s made 18 starts and has displayed a newfound velocity in recent outings, routinely reaching 97 mph with his fastball, but the right-hander has been able to mix in sharp breaking pitches to become an attractive option for potential suitors.
Wilmer Flores, Jose Reyes and Kevin Plawecki each had two hits as the light-hitting Mets scored seven runs for the first time since June 24. New York came into the game last in the National League in batting average and was tied with San Diego for the third-fewest runs scored in the majors.
It was the second straight victory for New York, who will look to win the series Sunday. The Mets have not won a series since sweeping Arizona May 18-20.
New York roughed up Austin Voth (0-1) in his major league debut. After a quiet first inning that included a strikeout of Mets’ leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo on three pitches, the 26-year old rookie ran into trouble in the second. Flores singled to lead off the frame and moved to second on Plawecki’s single. Voth was unable to help his own cause, pausing for too long after fielding Reyes’ chopper, failing to throw out the still speedy infielder to load the bases.
“I think it’s been a lesson learned for him,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He got a chance to pitch and I told him you’re going to pitch up here so learn from your mistakes and move on”
Amed Rosario remained hot, singling through the right side to score Flores with the first run of the game. The young shortstop is batting 9 for 21 with six extra-base hits over his last seven games.
Wheeler lofted a sacrifice fly and Nimmo drove in a run with a groundout to give New York a three-run lead.
New York reached Voth again for four in the fifth, three coming on Conforto’s first home run since June 26. Voth, who did not pitch in his two prior stints with Washington allowed all seven runs and struck out three. He was the fourth starting pitcher to make his major league against the Mets this season, but was the first to suffer a loss.
Wheeler was able to keep the Nationals off-balance until Bryce Harper’s RBI single in the sixth. Callaway left Wheeler in the game to face Harper again with a runner on in the eighth, and the right-hander struck out the slumping Harper on seven pitches. Harper finished 1 for 4 and has just two multi-hit games since June 9. The All-Star outfielder had a pre-game meeting with manager Dave Martinez after failing to run out a fifth-inning ground ball Friday.
Jeurys Familia pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 21 chances.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) is scheduled for a rehab start Sunday for Single-A Potomac. Martinez indicated he hoped Strasburg would throw between 80 and 85 pitches. Strasburg would be in position to start Washington’s first game after the All-Star break versus Atlanta. Catcher Matt Wieters was given the day off after playing in three straight games. He was activated from the disabled list on July 9 after missing two months after surgery on his left hamstring . RHP Koda Glover (shoulder) struggled in a rehab appearance with Class A Potomac, allowing two runs on five hits over 1 2-3 innings.
Mets: Infielder T.J. Rivera (Tommy John surgery) was removed after five innings from a rehab game with Triple-A Las Vegas Friday with discomfort in his right arm. He is scheduled to undergo further testing. OF Yoenis Cespedes (strained right hip flexor) is ready to progress to something “a little more strenuous”, although Callaway did not indicate what Cespedes’ next would be. The Mets will play three games against the New York Yankees after the All-Star break and Callaway left open the possibility that the ailing outfielder could serve as the Mets’ designated hitter for the series. Callaway did note that Cespedes would return as New York’s left fielder, ending any speculation of a potential position change for the 32-year old . RHP Jason Vargas (strained right calf) made a rehab start for Class A Brooklyn. He allowed two runs and struck out 10, while throwing exactly 90 pitches over six innings.
The Mets have had 49 players appear in at least one game this year. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, only three other teams have used so many players before the All-Star break in one season. The Los Angeles Angels have used 50 this season, the Texas Rangers used 50 in 2014 and the Atlanta Braves used 49 in 2015.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (3-1, 3.47 ERA) takes to the mound for Washington in the final game before the All-Star break. Hellickson spun five scoreless frames against Pittsburgh on July 10. He has reached the sixth inning just once in 12 starts and has yet to reach 100 pitches. He’ll be opposed by New York’s Corey Oswalt (0-2, 6.75 ERA).