The problem with being in the only group of New York Metropolitans who are carrying their weight … the group that is Mets starting pitchers … is that you have to be absolutely damn near perfect to bear fruit for your effort. Consider tonight, when the Mets were going up against the Marlins who give them fits … a pitcher making his major league debut in Andrew Heaney … and doing so with a lineup featuring a leadoff hitter hitting .231, and a bottom half of the lineup hitting .228, .197, .167, and .218. It’s just one of many games where a starting pitcher has to overcome his own teammates just to get a win.
Zack Wheeler knows this all too well. In May he pitched six shutout innings and still the Mets found a way to lose 1-0. Zack survived without his best stuff that night. On Thursday, however, he went from gritty to down right spectacular as he pitched a masterful three-hit shutout with 8 K’s and just one walk in a 1-0 victory over the Miami Marlins (he almost became the first Met two throw a two hit shutout or better on the road in eight years, but more on that later). And that’s what it takes to win on this team. Six shutout innings aren’t enough. You need nine, and you need those nine to have the polish of a game show car buffed up with a year’s supply of Turtle Wax. Unfair as that may seem, it’s the way of the world. But we all knew Wheeler had the stuff to do it and he did it. Go back and check out the nasty stuff he used to strike out Giancarlo Stanton twice:
Wheeler is now 3-7, but he’s pitched a little better than that. Of the seven losses, he earned five of them, with the other two coming after having pitched well enough to win. He probably could have earned a couple of more wins of the no-decisions but for the fact that the lineup waited until after he left to get some hits. As evidenced by this SNY graphic:
… not to mention Thursday’s gem, it’s coming. Consistency with his command is his final personal hurdle. Once that happens, then the final final hurdle is getting this lineup some legitimate hitters and not the usual “oh, this guy hit .268 five years ago so maybe after hitting .048 since he will all of a sudden find himself at our cavernous ballpark” guy (cough cough Chris Young cough cough). Maybe then a starting pitcher for the New York Mets can find some peace.
(Editor’s note: There is actually one more hurdle the Mets need to clear, and that’s getting Reed Johnson out of the league. His pinch hit single not only aggravated me, not only raised his career average against the Mets to .346, but kept Wheeler from being the first pitcher to hurl a road complete game shutout while giving up two hits or less since Alay Soler. How dare Reed Johnson continue to hurt the Mets and keep Wheeler from reaching the heights previously set by the legendary Alay Soler? Dammit.)