Soon to be a free agent, Zack Wheeler made what might be his final start in a Mets' uniform on Thursday night.
Wheeler's night at Citi Field got off to a great start. In the first inning, he struck out leadoff man Jon Berti on three straight fastballs. He went on to strike out Isan Diaz to end an easy 1-2-3 first frame.
Wheeler cruised through the first three innings, retiring nine of the first 10 hitters that he faced, mixing in five strikeouts. Incredibly, the middle three innings were even more of a breeze for the right-hander, as he didn't allow a base-runner while striking out three more Marlins.
Finally, with two outs in the seventh, Starlin Castro lined a double into left for the Marlins' second hit of the night. Wheeler quickly retired the next batter to get out of the seventh. He recorded 10 strikeouts through seven.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets loaded the bases in a scoreless game, and Mickey Callaway elected to keep Wheeler in the game to hit. Wheeler made the gamble pay off, as he lined a single into center field to score the first run of the game for either side.
Taking the mound with a 2-0 lead in the top of the eighth, Wheeler allowed a leadoff double to Harold Ramirez. After a groundout advanced the runner to third, Tyler Heineman drove a fastball out to right for a two-run home run to tie the game. The very next hitter, former Met Curtis Granderson, took Wheeler deep as well, and just like that, the Marlins took the lead.
Wheeler's final line showed eight innings for the right-hander, allowing three earned runs on five hits with 10 strikeouts.
"I felt like I pitched really good tonight besides those two homers," Wheeler said after the game. "That one to Granderson was just a slider spinning right down the middle, so sometimes you've got to give them credit. I feel like I pitched good, just didn't get the result that I wanted."
Mickey Callaway said after the game that he wanted to let Wheeler pitch the entire game, but it just wasn't meant to be.
"You see the work the guy's put in. Where we're at, you want him to win the game," said Callaway. "I wanted him to get that complete game shutout and go into free agency or whatever on the highest note he possible could."
The 2019 season was Wheeler's fifth on the mound with the Mets, though he missed all of 2015 and 2016 due to injury. This season was a bumpy one for the right-hander, whose 3.99 ERA is the second highest of his big-league career. He also allowed 20 home runs on the season, and while home run numbers are up across the league, Wheeler surpassed his previous high of 15 home runs allowed, which came in 2017, when he made just 17 starts.
To his credit, though, Wheeler has been terrific for the Mets over the past month-plus. In his previous five starts coming into Wednesday's game, Wheeler pitched to a 1.41 ERA, allowing just five earned runs in 32.0 innings. He struck out 29 and walked just eight hitters during that stretch.
If Thursday was Wheeler's final stat in a Mets uniform, he hopes that fans remember him for the hard work he put in with the team.
"I came to work every day and gave it everything I have. I like New York, I love the fans here. It's a great place to play. I was upset that I wasn't here for those two seasons when we had winning records, but this season, we didn't finish where we wanted, but we did have a winning record and that was nice to be a part of. I wish we could have done a little bit more, but it is what it is, I guess.
"I love New York, I love the Mets. They treated me fairly and very good. I just wanted to give everything I could back to the Mets, and that's working hard and trying to get better every time out and just putting in the work."