Mets RHP Zack Wheeler was hit hard for the second consecutive outing during Monday night's 10-6 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Wheeler (3-5) lasted just two innings and allowed seven runs, eight hits and three home runs. He struggled from the start, allowing five straight hits to open the game, including a three-run home run to 21-year-old rookie Cody Bellinger.
"When you've got that kind of stuff and you're getting hit like he's getting hit, there is something wrong and we've got to get to the bottom of it," manager Terry Collins said after the game.
In the second inning, Bellinger hit another home run, two pitches after Justin Turner hit a home run, all of which combined to give Los Angeles a quick 7-0 lead.
"It's really frustrating," Wheeler said about Monday's performance. "It all starts with me, though. These last two outings weren't very fun."
In his last two starts, Wheeler has a 36.82 ERA. In addition to giving up seven runs Monday, he allowed eight runs and six hits in less than two innings of work last week against the Cubs.
"Honestly, I haven't had off-speed pitches all year, and now it's starting to catch up to me," Wheeler admitted. "Those guys get scouting reports and now it's starting to catch up to me. It's easy for them when you can't throw off-speed for strikes and you're just throwing fastball."
He may be right about the quality and command of his off-speed pitches, but he's also consistently missing Travis d'Arnaud's target with his fastball, such as when giving up back-to-back home runs to Bellinger and Turner. In each case, d'Arnaud called for the ball down in the zone and, instead, it was belt high and crushed. Bellinger's second home run was off a pitch that d'Arnaud set up for low and away and, instead, Wheeler hung a slider in that broke over the plate.
To me, I see a guy suddenly unable to locate his fastball, which is probably highlighting the fact that he's also struggling to command his off-speed pitches. But, it starts with the heat. Wheeler works off his fastball, which -- when he's going well, like he had done during 10 starts between mid-April and early-June -- he keeps low in the strike zone to get easy groundball outs. However, when his fastball is up -- like during his last two starts -- and he isn't commanding his off-speed pitches, well, he gives up 14 hits and 15 runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Jun 13, 2017; Wheeler (45) reacts after leaving the game. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Wheeler will not admit it, but I'm sure he's a bit fatigued. Remember, because he had Tommy John surgery in early 2015 and didn't pitch last season due to setbacks, it's been nearly two full years since he pitched every five days like he's been doing this season.
He's already thrown 66 innings and, due to two short outings in the last week, he's on pace to throw roughly 160 innings by the end of September. In March, Sandy Alderson said he'd likely cap Wheeler at 125 innings, but that the number could change depending on a lot of factors.
My hunch is the Mets aren't even thinking about Wheeler's innings at this point, since they're in all-out win mode given their place in the standings. That said, I bet they'd shut him down around that 125 mark if he hits a wall during late August and they're totally out of the playoff race. On the other hand, if they crawl back in and have a chance at October, I bet they let him keep pitching, even if it means he reaches a total of 150-160 innings.