Coming into the season, Zack Wheeler didn’t seem likely to make the Mets’ Opening Day rotation. But the way things worked out, he did just that, and for the first time since late in the 2014 season, he pitched in a major league game against the Marlins on Friday night.
That he made it back to the major league mound is nothing to sneeze at. After missing two full seasons because of Tommy John surgery and an unexpectedly slow recovery, it was exciting to just see Wheeler back out there in a real game. And in the first inning, he looked about as good as he ever had before his surgery, regularly hitting 97 with his fastball and setting the Marlins down in order. Two of those first three outs came via the strikeout.
To top off that great feeling from the top of the first, the Mets took the lead on a Curtis Granderson single in the bottom half of the inning. Unfortunately, that was the high point of the game.
In the second, Wheeler gave up three runs, two of which scored on a Derek Dietrich triple that turned the Mets’ lead into a deficit. And after another run scored on an Adeiny Hechavarria ground out, Wheeler got through the inning. But he followed that up in the third by serving up a two-run home run to Christian Yelich, which—thanks to the wind—went from a clearly-fair ball to hitting the right field foul pole. If not for that wind, Wheeler might have given up another home run earlier in the game when Giancarlo Stanton smoked a ball to left that died midair and was caught by Yoenis Cespedes.
Wheeler’s velocity tailed off a bit over the course of his brief start, too, though that wasn’t alarming on its own. For a pitcher who had gone through such a long layoff, it’s not surprising that he didn’t remain strong after that dominant top of the first inning. Plan A probably didn’t have him starting games this early in the year, but he should have plenty of opportunity to prove he’s capable of remaining in his current role.
As for the rest of the game, Josh Smoker had a poor outing, too. He recorded just one out and gave up two runs in the process. He might have given more, too, if not for fan-least-favorite Rafael Montero, who took over for him with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth and induced a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning. Those were the first two outs of Montero’s two-and-two-thirds innings of scoreless work. Josh Edgin pitched the eighth and ninth, and he didn’t allow any runs, either.
But the Mets barely threatened to score runs the rest of the way. Yoenis Cespedes hit a pretty home run in the bottom of the eighth, but it was a solo shot that merely reduced the Mets’ large deficit a little bit.
Four games into the season, the Mets are 2-2. They’ll have the opportunity to get back on the right side of .500 on Saturday night, as Robert Gsellman makes his first start—and second appearance—of the 2017 season.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Curtis Granderson, +9.7% WPA
Big losers: Zack Wheeler, -35.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Curtis Granderson singles in a run in the first, +10.6% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Derek Dietrich hits a two-run triple, give the Marlins the lead in the second, -19.6% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -40.1% WPA
Total batter WPA: -9.9% WPA
GWRBI!: Adeiny Hechavarria