PHOENIX — Matt Harvey might be the main attraction on Broadway these days, but if Saturday night is any indication, the Zack Wheeler Show might be the next great hit in the Big Apple.
Five days removed from one of the worst starts (five runs on seven hits in five innings) of his young career, the New York Mets right-hander was in complete control against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Outside of Aaron Hill’s seventh inning home run, the 23-year-old was never really threatened in the Mets 4-1 victory over the D-backs.
Using an overpowering fastball (registered between 94 to 97 MPH most of the night), a late-breaking 12-6 curveball and an effective cutter, Wheeler made a D-backs offense that came into the contest averaging 6.67 runs on their current homestand look rather pedestrian.
In 6 1/3 innings of work, Wheeler allowed one run on six hits. He also struck out four batters and didn’t allow a walk or the D-backs to get multiple runners on base in any inning.
“He threw the ball good,” D-backs’ manager Kirk Gibson said of Wheeler. “He has a good arm, we hit a lot of ground balls because he has a lot of life on that fastball. You’ve heard about him for years, and he pitched a good game against us.”
With the loss, Arizona fell to a season-worst 6.5 games out of first place in the National League West.
Outside of a rough fourth inning, Brandon McCarthy was much more efficient in his second start back from the disabled list.
Although he threw the same number of pitches (97) as he did in his last outing at Fenway Park, the D-backs right-hander lasted seven innings against New York and looked pretty good throughout. In all, the 29-year-old allowed two earned runs on six hits to go along with four strikeouts, a walk, a wild pitch and a hit batter.
“Today was good, from the standpoint I needed to get past that wall,” said McCarthy. “Rehab appearances you have a set limit and you kind of pitch up to that. You kind of saw it in Boston, I got to a certain point and hit the cliff. Today after the sixth, I really wanted to get through that. I needed that seventh where you’re a little tired and have to push through that.”
After his longest absence from the starting lineup in 2013, Gerardo Parra looked well-rested in his return. Playing right field, Parra gunned down Wilmer Flores at third base to end the fourth inning and then robbed John Buck of a two-run, extra-base hit to end the top of the eighth inning. He also went 2-for-4 at the plate.
What’s worse: Six innings of no offense or blowing two great chances with the bases loaded the following two frames? Well, the D-backs experienced a bit of both Saturday night.
After finally breaking through with a run to start the seventh, Arizona loaded the bases on two hits and a walk. However, Adam Eaton (0-of-2 with the bases loaded in 2013) promptly swung at the first pitch he saw from reliever Scott Rice and grounded out to end the inning.
An inning later, the D-backs once again loaded the bases with a two-out rally that featured hits by Hill and Cody Ross and a walk to Wil Nieves. But with two outs, Mets left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano struck out Parra to end the threat.
David Hernandez was given another opportunity to right the ship, but continued to struggle. Mets third baseman Flores tagged the D-backs’ reliever with a two-run single in the eighth inning to turn a close one-run contest into a comfortable victory. Hernandez has allowed runs in five of his last six appearances.
After the game, Gibson said the team would be optioning Hernandez down to Triple-A.
“He’s struggled,” said Gibson. “We’re going to get him down in a different environment. He’s been doing a lot of work since we haven’t pitched him as much. He’s been doing a lot of work in the bullpen just working on some things. He went out there today, and the game’s just kind of been cruel to him.”
He Said It:
“I felt pretty good. There’s a few pitches there I would like to have back. But overall, I thought I did a good job commanding the ball and moving it around. Wil and I got on sync early, and I thought he did a good job calling the game based on their swings, what they were doing and the adjustments they were making. That makes it easier for me, because I can follow what he’s doing. And I think we did a good job of that.” – McCarthy on his start and rapport with catcher Nieves
– Nieves has hit safely in seven of his last eight games.
– D-backs prospect Brad Allen tossed a no-hitter for Single-A South Bend Saturday, striking out nine batters in the process.
– J.J. Putz extended his scoreless appearances streak to 12. He last allowed a run on July 1 against the Mets.
– Parra’s outfield assist in the fourth inning ties him with Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez for the most (11) in the National League.
– Flores became the second player this season to record two 3-RBI games in the first five games of his career. The other was the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig.
The D-backs will try to take the rubber match of their three-game set with Mets Sunday at Chase Field, as right-hander Zeke Spruill (0-1, 6.48 ERA) makes his second career start. In his last outing, Spruill allowed five runs in a 7-1 loss to the Texas Rangers. The Mets will counter with left-hander Jonathan Niese (3-6, 4.32 ERA). In his last start at Chase Field, Niese gave up six earned runs in an 11-5 loss to the D-backs. First pitch is at 1:10 p.m. MST and can heard on Arizona Sports 620.