New York Mets starter Zack Wheeler continued his turnaround, stifling the Atlanta Braves for seven innings.
Wheeler has now thrown 17 consecutive scoreless innings. His ERA has dipped below 4.00 (3.89) for the first time since April, and the 28-year-old’s confidence and intimidation levels on the mound have, arguably, never been higher.
The Symrna, Georgia native struck out the side in the top of the first, Ronald Acuna, Jr. on a 98 MPH high fastball, Ozzie Albies on a perfectly placed split-fingered fastball, and Freddie Freeman on an absolutely nasty 99 MPH fastball up and in at his chest.
Nick Markakis walked to start the second, but Wheeler recovered to retire developing Met killer Johan Camargo, struck out Ender Inciarte on an 80 MPH, looping curve (quite possibly his best pitch of the night), and got Braves backstop, Tyler Flowers, to fly out to right field.
After an Albies groundout to lead off the top of the fourth, Freeman notched Atlanta’s first hit of the game, a liner to right field, but Wheeler kicked himself into gear once again, striking out Markakis on a splitter and getting Camargo to fly out to leave Freeman stranded.
The 28-year-old righty struck out Inciarte again to lead off the fifth, again on a low-80’s curveball. A quick side note, to echo my sentiments from earlier, the self-assuredness of Zack Wheeler as he worked his way through one of the most potent offenses in baseball was incredibly encouraging.
Wheeler allowed a swinging bunt single to Flowers after that punchout but got Dansby Swanson to ground into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.
After a perfect sixth, including his eighth strikeout of the night (Acuna) on another filthy splitter, Wheeler worked around a Freeman leadoff double to retire the next three Braves and finish his night on an extremely high point.
On the night, Wheeler finished with a superb line in which he allowed no runs, three hits, and one walk while striking out nine batters over seven innings (104 pitches, 73 for strikes).
The 73 strikes part is noteworthy, even to Wheeler, who admitted that his control has been an issue in the past, but now appears to no longer be.
“My command is a lot better this year and it makes it a whole lot easier,”
Wheeler’s teammate, Robert Gsellman admitted that this version of the hard-throwing righty is not one that has been witnessed in the past.
“Within this last month, he’s coming into his own. I knew it’d come one day and I’m just happy I could have his back today.”
All in all, the strides that Zack Wheeler has taken this season, let alone how well he performed in the face of a steady stream of swirling trade rumors over the last month or so, have been truly awesome.