Zack Wheeler turned in the worst start of his career on Tuesday, allowing eight runs on six hits before he could complete two innings during a 14-4 loss to the Cubs.
"I just didn't feel right today," Wheeler said after the game. "I don't know what it was, I just didn't feel right. It's no excuse, but you're supposed to find it when you're out there and make an adjustment. I couldn't do that today."
Wheeler, who had not allowed more than three runs in an outing since April 23, allowed a leadoff home run to Anthony Rizzo to start the game. Ian Happ then blasted a two-out grand slam in the second inning to extend Chicago's lead to 6-1.
Jun 13, 2017; Terry Collins (10) relieves Wheeler (45) at Citi Field. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Cubs then scattered two more hits before Addison Russell's two-out, two-RBI double forced Wheeler's early exit.
In relief of Wheeler, Josh Smoker, Neil Ramirez, and Josh Edgin combined to allow six more runs as Wheeler fell to 3-4 and raised his ERA to 4.48 on the season.
Well, yikes! Wheeler had made 6-7 really good starts in a row, but that streak ended quick and with a vengeance Tuesday night. He gave up a leadoff home run to Rizzo, seemed like he might rebound up through two outs in the second inning, but then his night totally fell apart after giving up a two-out hit to the opposing pitcher, Jon Lester.
I recall Tom Seaver and Tom Glavine once telling me that every game -- for a pitcher -- typically comes down to two or three key moments, which, if not managed properly, even if all other moments go well, will bite you and end up in a loss.
Jun 13, 2017; Wheeler (45) reacts after leaving the game. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
For Wheeler, it was in the second inning at around 30 or os pitches with the game tied, two outs and an 0-2 count on Rizzo.
Had Wheeler gotten through this at-bat unharmed, I have a feeling he may have been able to push through the rest of the night. However, having clearly been influenced by Rizzo's home run in the first inning, Wheeler missed with three straight pitches in an attempt to get Rizzo to chase. Instead, all three landed for balls, led to a bases loaded walk and a run that gave Chicago the lead.
Irritated and seemingly distracted, the next pitch he threw was a mid-90s meatball that was totally crushed for a grand slam that put the Cubs up 6-1.
Jun 13, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets manager Terry Collins (10) relieves Wheeler (45) at Citi Field. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Basically, Zack let the game's leadoff home run throw him off a bit, after which he lost focus in a key spot and, in the blink of an eye, he missed his moment and the game was essentially lost. It happens. I'm not terribly worked up about this, given how well he had been pitching up until this point.
I realize the Cubs are struggling, but they still have several powerful, intelligent hitters. So, even when slumping, if a pitcher lets up and starts throwing BP-style fastballs down the heart of the plate, they're going to respond by hitting them a country mile. And they did Tuesday night...
Wheeler will brush this off. I've been so impressed by his poise and concentration this season, last night aside. I bet he uses this as a learning opportunity. He'll remember how last night felt and come back strong in his next start, which should be this weekend against the Nationals or early next week against the Dodgers.