Mets' Wheeler deals Phillies a loss

Posted: May 30, 2014

FROM THE END of the second inning to the beginning of the seventh, Zack Wheeler retired 14 straight Phillies hitters, and with relative ease.

Only two balls left the outfield over that run spanning six innings. Wheeler's 14th straight out was also his ninth strikeout of the night.

The New York Mets righthander was a Marlon Byrd solo home run away from joining an endless list of pitchers who have thrown zeroes up on the Citizens Bank Park scoreboard this month. Byrd's one-out home run in the seventh inning saved the Phillies from being shut out for the sixth time in their last 14 games at home.

But it did not save them from defeat.

Behind a dominant Wheeler and a healthy supply of early offense, highlighted by Chris Young's two-run home run in the fourth inning, the Mets coasted to a 4-1 win over the Phillies last night.

The Phillies are 11-16 in home games this season. They are averaging 3.5 runs per game at Citizens Bank Park this season; they've scored three runs or fewer in seven of their last 12 games at home.

"So far we haven't put it together - we have to fix that," Carlos Ruiz said. "We have to stay strong, come tomorrow with a different mentality. We have to give credit to that guy, he was pitching real well.

Ruiz was one of the few (only?) Phillies hitters who looked competent against Wheeler, going 1-for-2 with a double and long out to centerfield in two at-bats against him.

"He was pretty sharp," manager Ryne Sandberg said of Wheeler. "He was ahead in the count on just about every hitter. That made it tough with his higher fastball and his breaking stuff."

Wheeler held the Phillies to a run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings. He had nine strikeouts and zero walks.

"He established his fastball; we weren't able to get some swings on it," Sandberg said. "A lot of takes. A lot of behind the counts . . . He mixed in some backdoor sliders to lefties and some curves and changeups."

Wheeler, who is celebrating his 24th birthday today, was probably the perfect pitcher for the Phillies to see as their season continues to careen toward another bottom-division finish. And not because they're masochists who enjoy being shut out.

Five years ago, the San Francisco Giants selected Wheeler with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft. In 6 days, the Phillies will try to find a future star with the seventh pick in the first round of the MLB draft; it's the highest pick they've had since selecting Gavin Floyd fourth overall in 2001.

But that's not the only reason Phils management should have been envious as they watched Wheeler mow down the home team's hitters. Three years ago, the Mets acquired Wheeler from the Giants in a trade-deadline deal that sent Carlos Betran to San Francisco.

If the Phillies (23-28) decide to sell off veteran parts before this year's deadline in the next two months, they could do a lot worse than to acquire a young talent or two of Wheeler's caliber.

Last night, the holy triumvirate of the aging Phillies lineup - Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard - were a combined 0-for-12 with nine strikeouts. After hitting two home runs and knocking in nine runs in his last two starts, including a walkoff home run on Wednesday, Howard went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

But they were not alone. As a whole, the Phillies struck out 15 times in 31 at-bats.

One night removed from a ninth-inning rally against the Rockies, the Phils went home quietly against the Mets: five of the final six batters struck out.

"We were just behind in the count the whole game," Sandberg said. "We couldn't pull the trigger on his fastball. [Wheeler] got better as the game went on with his breaking stuff. Even the relievers had pretty good stuff."

David Buchanan (1-1), making his second major league start, was the hard-luck loser. The righthander gave up four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings, but Young's home run was arguably the only mistake he made.

The Mets scored first in a second inning that began with two of the first three hitters reaching on a bunt and an infield hit. In the fifth, an inning after Young's home run increased their lead to 3-0, the Mets tacked on another run when Cesar Hernandez made his second error in as many games at third base and then failed to tag third on a force play.

Hernandez, a natural second baseman, didn't begin playing third base until March.

"He's getting an opportunity to gain experience; that's the bottom line, due to circumstances," Sandberg said of Hernandez, who made his seventh straight start at third in place of the injured Cody Asche. "He's showed some good glove work in earlier games. Just a couple of misreads tonight."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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