Mark Simon of ESPN New York had a great post on Sunday in which he ranked the Top 11 memorable Mets debuts over the team’s history. He included both pitching and hitting debuts. Check out his work and research here. (This is great for some of you younger Mets fans)
I pulled the pitchers out of his list to see where Zack Wheeler might rank on this list. Here are the top five.
- Dick Rusteck (June 10, 1966 vs. Reds) - The only Mets pitcher to throw a shutout in his major league debut beat the Reds’ ace, Jim Maloney, in a swift two hours, six minutes. Rusteck struck out only four, but dominated. He did not face a runner in scoring position the entire night. Rusteck made only seven more appearances and two more major league starts. That win would be the only one of his major league career.
- Collin McHugh (Aug. 23, 2012 vs. Rockies) - Against what was a lineup comprised mostly of minor leaguers, McHugh dominated, allowing two hits and striking out nine in seven scoreless innings. He’d get a no-decision because the Mets couldn’t score against five Rockies pitchers. McHugh is one of only five pitchers to allow no runs and two hits or fewer, with at least nine strikeouts, in a debut in the modern era, a list that begins with Hall of Famer Juan Marichal (1960).
- Matt Harvey (July 26, 2012 vs. Diamondbacks) - This one wasn’t that long ago, so it should be fresh in the memory bank: Harvey piled up the pitch count early, limiting him to 5 1/3 scoreless innings, but he was very impressive, both on the mound (with 11 strikeouts) and at the plate (with a pair of base hits in a 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks). The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Harvey is the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to strike out 11 hitters and record two hits in his major league debut.
- Dillon Gee (Sept. 7, 2010 vs. Nationals) - Gee opened his career with five no-hit innings before surrendering a homer to Mets scourge Willie Harris leading off the sixth. It would be the only run he would allow in seven two-hit frames in a 4-1 win. Gee’s five wins against the Nationals are his most against any major league team.
- Gary Gentry (April 10, 1969 vs. Expos) - Gentry came within one out of a shutout in his first start against the expansion Expos. He’d settle for a 4-2 win, the first of many productive moments in a championship season, one in which he would start games in both the NLCS and World Series. The win was a big deal for the Mets in this regard: It made them 2-1, marking only the second time in eight years that they had a winning record through three games.
So where do we slot Zack Wheeler who certainly pitched worthy enough to make this list?
Certainly, Wheeler moves ahead of Gary “Baby Face” Gentry and Dillon Gee. No way he unseats Dick Rusteck, who still remains the standard bearer with his complete game shutout. And Collin McHugh, who was just ousted to Colorado, is probably safe as well.
It comes down to putting Wheeler’s debut either ahead or behind Matt Harvey. I asked the progenitor of the list, Mark Simon, last night. He puts Wheeler at No. 4 behind Matt Harvey citing the walks. Not a bad showing at all… The 4th best pitching debut in 51 years of Mets baseball.
You know what else is amazing here? That we have four pitchers on this list who debuted during 2010-2013. You would think you’d see names like Jon Matlack, Dwight Gooden, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman here.