Zack Wheeler was unable to pitch out of trouble in the sixth inning when he allowed four of five batters to reach base during Monday's 6-3 loss to the Cardinals at Citi Field.
"It was my fault," Wheeler later explained. "I should have made my pitches and gotten out of that. Our bullpen, I trust them in every situation. Today, we just couldn't get the job done when we needed to."
After escaping a two-on, two-out jam in the third inning, as well as a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fifth, Wheeler (3-7) gave up a two-run home run to Paul DeJong and an RBI double to Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright before getting pulled from the game.
"You certainly can't go on a run if you're not going to get consistent pitching," Mets manager Terry Collins said after Monday's loss. "So, we've got to get consistent pitching."
Wheeler, 27, has lost five straight decisions, having not won a start since May 20. He is 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA during his last eight outings, after starting the season 4-6 with a 3.72 ERA.
Matthew Cerrone: Much like he did in his previous four outings, it looked like Zack hit a wall after throwing around 50-60 pitches. He cruised and was in command up to that point. But, midway through the fifth inning, despite still having solid velocity, he started missing with all of his pitches. To compensate, it looked like he and Travis d'Arnaud started leaning on different pitches in unorthodox spots, but it didn't fool St. Louis, who waited for fastballs and hit them when they got them.
He's so good to start the game, throwing inside, expanding the zone and getting ground balls when needed. But, for some reason, it all vanishes as the game rolls on. His mechanics and velocity all look strong, which suggests it could just be the opposition catching up to him or making adjustments to his stuff, and him struggling to adjust back. If that's the case, it's correctable, though I'm not sure why it is taking a month's worth of starts to get it right...
I agree with Nelson Figueroa, who -- on SNY's post game show -- said Wheeler desperately needs to find a third pitch, like Jacob deGrom's change up, to introduce the third time through the batting order to help get himself out of trouble and deeper in to the game when not pitching with his best stuff. It's difficult to work on and debut this during the season, so hopefully this is something they can work on before next year.
Following 16 starts this season, which is his first since having Tommy John surgery in early-2015, Wheeler is on pace to throw 146 innings. In February, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it's possible Wheeler could be capped at around 120 innings, which he's likely to reach during the middle of August. However, in June, Alderson said Wheeler's limit is flexible and will be based on how he's feeling and where the team is in the standings.
"We're trying to get back in the race," Terry Collins said early this month, noting that he and Alderson had not yet discussed how Wheeler will be used during the remainder of the season. "The development side has got to take a back seat right now. We need to get back in this race and that's by putting our best guys out there."