Zack Wheeler was spectacular on Thursday night, becoming the youngest Met since Dwight Gooden to pitch a complete game shutout. Throwing 111 pitches, Wheeler faced just one batter over the minimum, while allowing just three hits and striking out eight on route to a 1-0 Mets victory.
On a night when the Marlin’s debuted one of their elite pitching prospects in Andrew Heaney, Wheeler needed to be perfect. Heaney, a highly touted lefty out of Oklahoma State was brilliant in his major league premier, allowing just one run in six innings. His only mistake came in the first inning when David Wright tattooed a 2-2 fastball into the home run sculpture at Marlins Park (a part of the ball park generally reserved for Giancarlo Stanton.)
While Wheeler’s first calendar year in the big leagues has had its ups and downs, the young man garnered in the Carlos Beltran deal has dominated the Marlins thus far. In 4 career starts against the Fish, Wheeler has thrown 28 innings, struck out 30 and pitched to a .96 ERA. This performance should provide a much needed confidence boost for Wheeler, who has not had the greatest of seasons to this point (2-7, 4.38 ERA entering last night).
Wheeler, who boasts the fourth fastest average fastball among starters in the National League at 94.4 mph (Fangraphs) (one spot ahead of Stephen Strasburg for reference), maintained his velocity all night long, hitting 95 and 96 mph in the 9th inning. Perhaps even more importantly, Wheeler controlled all of his secondary pitches, which has proven to be his Achilles heel to this point in his career.
“He’s got the stuff,” David Wright said after the game. “With him, it’s just a matter of pounding the strike zone, throwing all of his pitches for strikes, not falling behind and just having to throw fastballs. Because I don’t care how hard you throw in this league, it’s going to get hit if they know it’s coming, if they know you can’t throw other pitches for strikes.” (Metsblog)
The 24-year old hurler was pleased following the contest, telling ESPN’s Adam Rubin, "It feels great, I know I can do it every time out. I know I have the stuff. It finally feels good to go out there and do it and be efficient with my pitches and get ahead of guys."(ESPN)
Entering the 9th, Wheeler had a chance to face the minimum, a feat that no Mets pitcher has ever accomplished. Reed Johnson, who has long been a thorn in the side of the Mets regardless of the team he is playing for, delivered a two out, two strike pinch hit single to erase that historic opportunity. The two previous base runners that Wheeler allowed had each been erased on double plays.
A franchise that has invested its entire future in the young arms that they have acquired, the Mets are hopeful that Wheeler’s best career start is more than an apparition. At the very least, it provides a positive narrative for a front office that is taking a beating from fans. Wheeler’s success can help deflect some of that flak.
The Mets look to capture their third consecutive contest tonight when Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-0, 2.81 ERA) takes on Henderson Alvarez (3-3, 2.56 ERA). First pitch in Miami is slated for 7:10 PM ET.