Zack Wheeler
Kathy Willens/AP Photo

Zack Wheeler turned in a gutsy performance in what could end up as the final time he suits up for the New York Mets.

In his potential last start for the New York Mets, Zack Wheeler proved what he’s worth. On a comfortable 80-degree night in Flushing, and his first game back from the Injured List, Wheeler took the mound ready to go against a struggling Pirates team who lost their last six games and 12 of their last 14 since the All-Star Break.

He started with a successful first inning going 1-2-3 with a strikeout. Unfortunately, the second inning proved to be a little tougher to navigate and Wheeler ends up giving up one run on a single by Moran. Despite the run, he battled out of the inning and finished off strong with three consecutive outs.

After the hiccup in the second, Wheeler started to find his groove. He cruised through the next three innings, retiring nine in a row with five strikeouts and a couple of fly outs.

Trouble arose in the top of the sixth when Adam Frazier belted a two-run bomb. But thanks to a three-run shot by Jeff McNeil in the bottom of the third, and a solo shot by Todd Frazier in the fifth, Wheeler was able to leave with his head held high.

In his 5.1 innings, Wheeler was able to strike out seven while only allowing three runs. The Mets held a 4-3 lead when he left the mound, perhaps for the final time in a Mets uniform.

Manager Mickey Callaway made a point to mention that Wheeler’s curveball, in particular, was on point. Wheeler said that he didn’t notice that specifically, but he knows his curveball is usually pretty good at keeping hitters off balance.

This season, Wheeler has had his share of troubles, as has most of the team. But he’s been reliable when needed, notching his first career home run this season to boot. His stats may not look great on paper with a 7-6 record and an ERA of 4.71, but you can’t blame the guy entirely when the team surrounding him isn’t helping too much either. His FIP stands at a respectable 3.64, which signals that he may be on the wrong end of some tough luck this season.

He’d be a good pick up for a lot of teams come the July 31 trade deadline. I know my dad is itching for him to be the next Yankee starter and I cringe thinking about him in pinstripes. But he’d be worth the trade for other teams so long as the Wilpons do it right. But we all know they probably won’t. 

When Wheeler stepped off the mound for what could have been his final time in a Mets uniform, the Citi Field crowd of 33,000-plus all rose to their feet to give a standing ovation. The crowd took the time to thank and congratulate Wheeler on a job well done in Flushing.

It screams of Wilmer Flores flashbacks from four years ago. Flores thought he was being traded from the only organization he’s ever known due to a stadium-wide chant of “Wilmer”. He was so moved, he cried on the field the next inning. Of course, that trade never came to be and we ended up with Yoenis Cespedes instead, which no one complained about. But, when Wheeler left the mound to a standing ovation, he knew what they were thinking. 

When asked if it occurred to him that this might be his last start as a Met, Wheeler talked about the emotion of the moment.

“Just when I was walking off the mound,” Wheeler said. “You know, I got a nice applause and I appreciate that from the fans. That’s the only time I thought about it because I was out there concentrating on winning a ballgame.”

About where he could be this time next week, Wheeler only said: “your guess is just as good as mine.” He kept the talk away from possible trades and rumors and kept it on the game while admitting to the fact that he knows it’s been rumored and talked about. But he won’t put merit to it until something happens. 

In all, Wheeler hasn’t had the best year but it’s been a year that wasn’t plagued by injuries. He has been able to fight through it and he may end up on a top contender come trade time. If he has to leave, we’ll let him go with warm wishes, but as a Met fan, and someone who was at his Citi Field debut, I’d like to see him stay and win in Flushing.

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