The Mets’ series opener against the Cubs on Friday night felt like many of their other games since the All-Star break. Their starting pitcher—the 24-year-old Zack Wheeler in this case—was pitching well, but the team wasn’t doing much of anything at the plate. But the Mets did eventually score just enough runs for the team to come away with a win to break a losing streak that began at the start of their previous series.
In the very early going, Wheeler was dominant. He struck out two in a scoreless first, one of whom was the highly-praise Javier Baez, who will apparently swing at just about anything. After giving up back-to-back singles in the second, he struck out the next three batters he faced.
Wheeler cracked in the third, though, walking opposing pitcher Travis Wood—not your typical light-hitting pitcher but a pitcher nonetheless—to begin the inning. One out later, Javier Baez drilled a single up the middle, and Wood busted it to third base, beating a good throw from center fielder Juan Lagares to get there safely. Baez followed suit and advanced to second on the throw.
With runners on second and third and just one out, Wheeler gave up a very hard-hit ground ball to Anthony Rizzo, who hit it right at Daniel Murphy. The ball was hit so hard that Wood held still off third base for a second, but when Murphy had it bounce off his hands to the ground, he broke for home, and Murphy had no choice but to get the out at first. Starlin Castro followed up with a single, and the Cubs were up 2-0.
Wheeler hit Welington Castillo with a pitch, but he got out of the third without any further damage. For the rest of the six-and-two-thirds innings he pitched, he did not look back. In total, Wheeler struck out ten, walked four, and gave up just four hits on 120 pitches. While he clearly wasn’t perfect, particularly in terms of putting runners on base for free, it was another in a long line of encouraging starts for Wheeler.
Like the Cubs, the Mets only scored in one inning. After going down quietly in the first three innings of the game, they got started in the fourth when David Wright and Lucas Duda drew walks to start the inning. Travis d’Arnaud popped out, but Eric Campbell, starting in left field since the left-handed Wood was on the mound, hit a three-run home run to left-center field. The Mets had a 3-2 lead, and that wound up being the final score of the ballgame.
When Wheeler took the mound for the top of the seventh inning, his pitch count was already high, but he notched two strikeouts before walking Chris Coghlan. That prompted Terry Collins to turn to Vic Black, who struck out Javier Baez to end the frame. Jeurys Familia struck out two Cubs hitters and walked one in a scoreless eighth, and Jenrry Mejia struck out one in a perfect ninth that included a very nice catch by Juan Lagares for the first out.
While he was facing the Cubs, Wheeler was impressive. Clearly not entirely on top of his game at certain points of his start, he worked through the rough patches and turned what could have been a mediocre start into a good one. He now has a 3.49 ERA on the season, over a full run lower than the 4.45 mark he had at the end of his June 25 start against the Oakland Athletics.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Eric Campbell, +33.2% WPA, Jenrry Mejia, +13.9% WPA, Jeurys Familia, +10.7% WPA
Big losers: Curtis Granderson, -10.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Campbell’s three-run home run in the fourth, +35.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Baez’s single in the third, +10.4% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +38.1% WPA
Total batter WPA: +11.9% WPA
GWRBI!: Eric Campbell