When the Mets’ season began, Zack Wheeler was an unexpected member of the team’s starting rotation. Thanks to the fact that he had missed the past two seasons and—for much of spring training—there wasn’t a clearly-open spot for him, Wheeler wasn’t really supposed to be making starts this early in the year.
Coming off a first start the began well and ended very poorly, Wheeler looked about as good as he ever has in the big leagues through the first five innings of his start against the Phillies on Wednesday night in the series finale between the two teams. As the Mets put together five runs of their own over those first five innings, Wheeler kept the Phillies from scoring at all. And although it was a bit out of character, he did so with incredible efficiency.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth, with the Mets up 5-0, that he faltered a bit. Back-to-back one-out singles in that frame might have been harmless, but after striking out Howie Kendrick, Wheeler issued a walk to load the bases. And with Maikel Franco coming up, even with Wheeler having thrown just 85 pitches to that point, Terry Collins turned to Hansel Robles.
As has been the case early this season, Robles was awful. He immediately served up a grand slam to Franco, which left the Mets ahead by just one. He followed that up by issuing a walk but managed to escape the sixth. He went back out for the seventh and got one out before he was replaced. Jerry Blevins, Fernando Salas, and Addison Reed shut the Phillies out the rest of the way.
At the plate, the Mets went with an unconventional leadoff man: Michael Conforto. He played center field, too, which might not be best fit for him but really isn’t the best fit for anyone on the team’s active roster. And after a leadoff single in the top of the first, he scored on a Yoenis Cespedes double.
In the top of the third, Conforto hit a very impressive home run to left-center field that double the Mets’ run total for the game. And he took part in the Mets’ three-run fifth inning, albeit passively, as he drew a walk that loaded the bases after Vince Velasquez hit Travis d’Arnaud with a pitch and walked Zack Wheeler. That bases-loaded situation set up a two-run Asdrubal Cabrera single and a sacrifice fly from Cespedes.
The d’Arnaud hit-by-pitch was particularly noteworthy for its entertainment value. For starters, d’Arnaud didn’t have to leave the game with an injury. But as he held his arm after being hit by the pitch, Mets trainer Ray Ramirez approached home plate from the Mets’ dugout. When d’Arnaud saw him getting close, he ran backwards away from home plate and toward first base, insisting that he was fine.
While the Mets didn’t score again in the game, they won. And with a sweep of the Phillies complete, they head to Miami for a four-game series with a 6-3 record. That’s a pretty good start to the 2017 season.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Zack Wheeler, +22.6% WPA, Addison Reed, +19.7% WPA, Michael Conforto, +15.0% WPA, Fernando Salas, +14.0% WPA
Big losers: Hansel Robles, -18.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Addison Reed strikes out Michael Saunders for the first out in the ninth, +12.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Maikel Franco hits a grand slam in the sixth, -24.9% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +44.0% WPA
Total batter WPA: +6.0% WPA
GWRBI!: Yoenis Cespedes