NEW YORK -- As Zack Wheeler attempted to clean up the damage the glaring sun wreaked on his teammates on Sunday, most notably two errors and an ugly base hit, he left manager Terry Collins yearning for more. The shutdown inning Collins hoped to see never materialized in the Mets' 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
"Once in a while you got to reach back and say, 'Hey, I'm picking [my teammate] up today. He dives and makes a catch for me last week or gets a big hit, today I'm picking him up.' And that's when you really start earning the respect of your teammates," Collins said. "I'm not saying Zack wasn't giving us effort. I'm just saying at that particular time, that would've been the time to get off the mound, and say 'This is it boys. This is going to be mine. I might be coming out after this inning, but this inning is going to be shut down.'"
Wheeler couldn't work around a pair of botched plays in the fifth inning of Sunday's 6-2 loss to Kansas City, and suffered the loss after giving up four runs (three earned) in five innings. Partly because of an unrelenting sun, the Mets mangled three plays, with two fifth-inning mistakes proving rather costly.
"It happens. It's baseball. Those fly balls -- if I had made my pitches I would've gotten weak contact and gotten ground balls and stuff," Wheeler said. "It's not their fault. It's on me. Make my pitches and keep the ball down."
With the Mets trailing 1-0, Byrd couldn't find a leadoff fly ball and it dropped in for a double. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third, Wheeler had his chance to atone for Byrd's play, but he lost his command. A wild pitch scored the run, and Wheeler then issued a walk.
The next batter, Alex Gordon, hit a deep fly that Byrd tracked down, but the sun affected him again and he dropped the ball for a two-base error. Lorenzo Cain followed with a two-run single to put the Royals up 4-0.
In the fifth inning, Wheeler allowed two hits, three walks and two wild pitches. He didn't see the sixth.
"That's something I've always prided myself in. If there's an error behind me or things aren't going my way I'm just going to keep trying to pitch, make my pitches and get out of the inning," Wheeler said. "It didn't happen today. It's going to happen from time to time."
Collins talked to Wheeler in the dugout after pulling him from the game, and stressed the importance of picking his teammates up. Collins mentioned how he would have liked to see Wheeler pump his fastball up to 96-97 mph.
"He pitched fine. Certainly, it was one of those days where some things happened that weren't his fault," Collins said. "When you have a day like we did today, this is when, in my opinion, the pitcher steps up and says 'I'm putting an ending to this. This inning's going to be over. I may not have anything next inning, but this inning's over.' And go out there and dominate like we know he can."