In his fifth start of the season last night, Zack Wheeler threw one of his best games as a major league pitcher. He struck out ten opposing hitters—his second career double-digit strikeout game—and walked three, giving up just one run in six innings of work. By game score, a Bill James metric that rates a pitcher’s performance, Wheeler had the second-best start of his young career with a 67.
If there was a knock on Wheeler, it was that he threw 110 pitches in those six innings, just 63 of which (57 percent) were strikes. But for the season, Wheeler now has a 3.99 ERA and an excellent 2.98 FIP thanks to good rates: 9.51 strikeouts, 3.38 walks, and 0.61 home runs per nine innings.
On to last night’s strikeouts!
Strikeout 1: Marcell Ozuna, looking
This was a fairly easy one for Wheeler in the first inning. With Christian Yelich on second and nobody out, he threw Ozuna three straight 95 mile-per-hour fastballs on the inner third of the plate. Ozuna fouled off the first one but looked at the second and third.
Strikeout 2: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, swinging
With two outs in the first, Wheeler missed inside with a first-pitch curveball and missed outside with a fastball to fall behind 2-0 in the count. But he got a called strike with a fastball and back-to-back swinging strikes to retire Saltalamacchia.
Strikeout 3: Derek Dietrich, swinging
Dietrich just had no chance at making contact with strike three here. Wheeler fell behind 1-0 but got Dietrich to foul off a changeup and swing and miss at another before throwing a cruel fastball up and away.
Strikeout 4: Henderson Alvarez, swinging
Wheeler’s fourth strikeout of the night came against the opposing pitcher leading off the third inning. He’d go on to strike out the side in order. Wheeler fell behind 1-0 but got ahead with a fastball and curve before blowing a 96 miles-per-hour fastball past Alvarez.
Strikeout 5: Christian Yelich, swinging
Wheeler fell behind Yelich 3-1 but came back to get the whiff with a fouled off fastball and this slider.
Strikeout 6: Marcell Ozuna, swinging
It took four pitches to strike Ozuna out the second time. Wheeler got ahead with a first-pitch fastball, missed outside with another fastball, and got two swinging strikes from Ozuna, first with a slider and then with a nasty curve.
Strikeout 7: Adeiny Hechavarria, swinging
Wheeler walked Dietrich to begin the fifth and fell behind Hechavarria 2-0 before getting a couple of called strikes on fastballs and throwing a third straight fastball to strike him out.
Strikeout 8: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, swinging
After giving up a leadoff single to Casey McGehee, Wheeler fell behind Saltalamcchia 3-0 with a couple of sliders and a fastball. But he came back in the count once again with a couple of fastballs for called strikes and got Saltalamacchia to whiff on the third.
Strikeout 9: Derek Dietrich, swinging
After striking out Saltalamacchia, Wheeler gave up a single to Garrett Jones to put runners on first and third. With his pitch count pretty high, Wheeler was undoubtedly on the ropes. That makes the back-to-back strikeouts here all the more impressive.
This time, Wheeler got ahead in the count 0-2 with a pair of curveballs. He missed high with a fastball, but perhaps he was just setting up this great changeup for strike three.
Strikeout 10: Adeiny Hechavarria, swinging
Facing the last batter of his start, Wheeler got ahead with a fouled off fastball, barely missed with a second, and got a called strike with a third. And he finished with a flourish—and escaped the jam to preserve the Mets’ lead—with a slider.