As I had speculated last week (and hoped for), Zack Wheeler has indeed turned a corner and is making his presence felt in the National League with each passing start.
Wheeler was on top of his game against the Cubs, limiting them to just two hits over 6.2 scoreless innings, while walking a pair and striking out seven.
He worked quickly and confidently throughout the game, never allowing a runner to get into scoring position. For the second straight start, there he was smiling at his locker while discussing his stellar outing..
“I think it’s a combination of just keeping the guys off-balance, not being too predictable and also locating,” Wheeler said. “I’ve been trying to get ahead of guys a lot more. It’s a lot easier to pitch when you do that.”
The 24-year old righty has posted a 1.37 ERA over his last three starts and has lowered his ERA to 3.89 for the season with a 3.13 FIP.
Unfortunately, he was denied a well-deserved win, a win he really wanted.
“It’s obviously frustrating when you lose any game,” Wheeler said. “I can only do what I can do. We’re playing good baseball right now for the most part.”
Wheeler will face his former team, the San Francisco Giants, his next time out.
When the Mets take their road show from Philadelphia to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago, Zack Wheeler will open the series just as he did last Thursday when tossed his best start of the season in a 4-1 victory against the Phillies.
The young righty brought his A-game to Citizens Bank Park, using every pitch in his arsenal to stifle the Phillies offense and pick up only his second win of the season while improving his ERA to 4.31 for the season.
In dominating fashion, Wheeler struck out nine in 6.1 innings. But what popped out more than the strikeouts was that he didn’t issue a walk on the night, perhaps a sign that things are finally coming together for him. Especially when you consider he only walked one batter in his previous start against the Diamondbacks.
“I knew I had it today,” said Wheeler, whose first five outs came via strikeout. “I could locate all of my pitches. It’s easy when you can locate all of your pitches and everything is working.”
Wheeler also pitched with a confidence and swagger that we haven’t yet seen from him this season, again a sign that he’s becoming more comfortable on this stage and with his own ability.
“He really was throwing well tonight,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You’re going to see nights like this out of him, he certainly has that ability, we’ve seen it in the past, he came with a reputation of dominating a game and tonight he dominated this game.”
His only flaw last week was his continuing difficulty in keeping his pitch count down. But remarkably, even though the Phillies worked him for eight full counts in the game, none of them resulted in a walk.
We could be seeing a turning point here and a progression to that next level you so often here about when you’re discussing a young player’s overall development.
Wheeler, who is usually his own harshest critic, had a look of accomplishment afterward, but more importantly a look of belonging, as he sat by his locker with reporters.
“I can actually smile after a start now,” said Wheeler after his electrifying performance.
I’m looking forward to seeing Wheeler continue this positive trend tonight in Chi-Town.