Zack Wheeler provided one of the most dominant all-around performances so far in the MLB season on Tuesday night, pitching seven shutout innings while also homering at the plate in the New York Mets’ 9-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wheeler struck out 11 hitters while allowing just five scattered hits, and also played a part in scoring each of New York’s first four runs.
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Wheeler’s offensive barrage began in the second inning, when he doubled to plate two runs. He was then brought around himself on an error by Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez.
The real fireworks were saved for the fourth inning, when Wheeler blasted a 385-foot home run to left center, giving the Mets a 4-0 lead. It was the first home run of the 28-year-old pitcher’s career.
The blast made Wheeler the first player this year to both hit and pitch a ball at over 100 mph. Wheeler ended the day 2-3 with 3 RBI, and is hitting a solid .273 so far this season.
“Pitching’s obviously first, but we work a lot on our hitting and we take pride in it,” Wheeler told reporters after the game. “We want to go up there and do well as a staff and not give them an easy out. Luckily, I wasn’t an easy out tonight.”
The Mets starting staff is known for their power pitching, but they do have a fair amount of power at the plate as well. Noah Syndergaard hit his first homer of the season on Sunday – though he needed a little help from Dexter Fowler’s glove in getting the ball over the wall – and has five home runs in his career. Jacob deGrom, who is currently on the 10-day injured list, smacked a dinger earlier in the year as well.
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But while the Mets will take the offense they get from their hurlers, the team is more concerned with getting good results out of their vaunted starting pitching. So far this year, the pitching staff has struggled for New York, meaning Wheeler’s impressive outing was a welcome sight for manager Mickey Callaway.
“Hit mechanics are synced up,” Callaway told reporters after the game. “He’s feeling good. That’s probably one of the best games I’ve ever seen him throw.”
Wheeler is now 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA on the season. No Mets starter has more than two wins or an ERA under 3.68.
From the Phillies’ perspective, the loss continued the recent struggles for the team’s offense. Philadelphia has scored just two runs during its three-game losing streak, a stretch that now has them sitting at just 12-11, one game behind the Mets for the division lead.
But the NL East race is tight, and promises to be so for most of the season. Four teams are within 1.5 games of the lead, and everyone except the Miami Marlins is expected to contend for the division title. William Hill still sees the Phillies (7/4) as the favorites to win the division, but the Mets (11/4), Washington Nationals (11/4) and Atlanta Braves (10/3) are all expected to be in the hunt come September.