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Zack Wheeler giveth and Zack Wheeler taketh away

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Zack Wheeler earned and surrendered his own lead as the Marlins secured a 4-2 victory over the Mets.

Miami Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

While the Mets postseason hopes were officially dead and buried long before the first pitch of this game was delivered, knowing that it may be Wheeler’s last start as a member of the Mets did give things a bit of emotion as the Mets squared off against Jordan Yamamoto and the Marlins.

Wheeler wasted little time getting to work in the first inning as he immediately blew three straight fastballs past the dastardly Jon Berti before getting Miguel Rojas to ground out and then blowing three more fastballs past Isan Diaz to cap off the first inning.

Power and efficiency defined the first inning on the job for Zack Wheeler, but the same could not be said for Jordan Yamamoto as his night got off to an inauspicious start. Brandon Nimmo led things off with a 10-pitch walk and after Pete Alonso struck out, Michael Conforto drew a walk of his own. Keeping the pattern going, J.D. Davis struck out to bring Robinson Cano to the dish with a chance to do some damage in the first inning with Yamamoto’s pitch count rising up and into the mid-20s. On the first pitch he saw, it looked as if Cano had given the Mets the 3-0 lead that they had been building to. Unfortunately, the hit had been called foul as it went over the top of the festooned foul pole and the umpires on the field and in New York couldn’t prove that it had gone fair. The real result ended up being much less spectacular as Cano grounded out and the Mets returned to the dugout with nothing to show for their patient first inning.

The second inning was all pitching as six of the seven batters to come up to the dish were retired with Austin Dean’s double off of Wheeler being the only exception. The third inning was almost identical but in that case the one exception was Brandon Nimmo bonking a double of his own into right field. Nimmo was stranded at second base as Alonso and Conforto each struck out as the inning reached its conclusion.

Wheeler and Yamamoto’s game of “anything you can do, I can do better” really hit its stride between the fourth and sixth innings. In that time, Wheeler filleted all nine fish he faced and struck out three of them. On the flip side, Yamamoto retired nine of the ten men he faced with five of the outs coming via strikeout, including all three batters in the fifth inning.

Following Starlin Castro’s stranding at second base to finish the top half of the seventh, Jordan Yamamoto was pulled in favor of Jarlin Garcia, officially putting a bow on one of the best starts of the Hawaiian’s young career. In six strong innings, Yamamoto struck out 10 Mets while allowing zero runs on a grand total of one hit: Brandon Nimmo’s double.

For the struggling Mets offense, the removal of Yamamoto was just what the doctor ordered as it took all of three pitches before they had already equaled their hit total of the first six innings with Todd Frazier’s single. Two pitches later, they had doubled their offensive output of the first six innings after Luis Guillorme added a single of his own. After Rene Rivera drew a walk, Mickey Callaway opted to leave Zack Wheeler in the game to bat for himself. Almost instantly, Callaway was proven correct in his decision as Wheeler snuck a ball in front of the dreaded Jon Berti in center field to provide the Mets with the first run of the night. From there, Brandon Nimmo doubled the Mets lead with a sacrifice fly that almost got over the head of Berti, but he flew up to catch it, as birds do, to limit Nimmo to a sacrifice fly as the Mets took a 2-0 lead. As Jeff Brigham was called into the game to face Pete Alonso, the Met threat was over almost as rapidly as it began after Alonso struck out on three pitches to end the inning.

With his pitch count low and sentimentality running on all cylinders, Mickey Callaway sent Zack Wheeler back out to the mound for his eighth inning of work. Much like the time his Super Tuesday partner Matt Harvey was left in his last game of the season for just one more inning, this tender moment was squashed by an offensive surge. Harold Ramirez doubled to lead off the inning and advanced to third base on Lewis Brinson’s grounder. One day after recording the first hit of his career, Tyler Heineman added another milestone to his resume as he launched Zack Wheeler’s fastball over the wall and onto the netting just beyond the wall in right field to give himself the first home run of his career and seriously cramping the style of the rolling Wheeler.

As the dust settled after Heineman’s homer, former Met and current fan favorite Curtis Granderson stepped up to the plate for what might be the the last time in New York to applause from the remaining fans. That welcoming applause soon turned to a confused mixture of angry and awkward congratulatory claps as Granderson hit a homer of his own to give the Marlins a 3-2 advantage over Wheeler and the Mets. Mickey Callaway waltzed out to the mound and one conversation later, Wheeler was left in the game to finish what he started one last time. Thankfully, Wheeler was able to do just that as he induced soft fly balls from Jon Berti and Miguel Rojas to end the inning and, potentially, his Mets career with an eight inning, three run, ten strikeout performance. For perhaps the last time, the bright-eyed kid who spent the first night of his big league career drenched in beer and fought like hell through two years of rehab from Tommy John Surgery to make it back to the majors walked off the mound that he had spent most of the past decade calling home to one last round of applause from the Flushing faithful.

Coming off of the disastrous top of the eighth inning, things didn’t improve much for the home team in the bottom half as their one baserunner against Jose Quijada was Rajai Davis running for Robinson Cano who had just gotten his hand turned to mush for the umpteenth time this season. To make matters worse, Davis was caught stealing at second base after he had successfully stolen the bag but had slid just too far past and removed his foot from the safety of the base.

In the top of the ninth, Luis Avilan acted as the LOOGY to retire Isan Diaz before Mickey Callaway called for Edwin Diaz to finish the job and record the final two outs. Of course, it wasn’t just that easy. To his credit, Diaz did get Starlin Castro to ground out before things went wrong and Austin Dean homered deep into the night to give the Marlins a 4-2 lead over the Mets.

After Diaz escaped the ninth without doing more damage, the Mets were down to the their final three outs needing three runs to win. Todd Frazier struck out and lost his bat to lead things off before Luis Guillorme singled to give the Mets a sliver of hope against Ryne Stanek. That sliver of hope was reduced to rubble within minutes as Amed Rosario grounded into a double play to end the 4-2 Marlins victory.

The Mets are back in action tomorrow night as Marcus Stroman takes the mound Dallas Keuchel and the NL East Champion Braves at 7:10pm.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Luis Guillorme +13.7% WPA, Brandon Nimmo +11.4% WPA
Big losers: Zack Wheeler -20.2% WPA, J.D. Davis -12.6% WPA, Pete Alonso -12.0% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -27.1% WPA
Total batter WPA: -22.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Zack Wheeler’s RBI single, +13.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Tyler Heineman’s game-tying home run, -29.7% WPA