Rapid Reaction: Mets 4, Phillies 1

PHILADELPHIA -- Now that’s the Zack Wheeler that Mets fans have been waiting to see!

Wheeler retired 14 straight batters and took a scoreless effort into the seventh before surrendering a solo homer and departing as the Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 in the opener to a five-game series at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night.

After a leadoff single in the first by Ben Revere, Wheeler struck out the next five Phillies. He finished with nine K's (three shy of matching his career high, set on Aug. 15, 2013, against the San Diego Padres).

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Zack Wheeler took a scoreless effort into the seventh inning on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Mets (25-28) left the Phillies (23-28) with sole possession of last place in the NL East.

The Mets have won their last six games in Philly.

Mets pitchers had tossed 18 straight scoreless innings until Marlon Byrd’s one-out solo homer in the seventh against Wheeler pulled Philadelphia within 4-1. Bartolo Colon and Jeurys Familia combined on a shutout Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field.

On Thursday, Scott Rice, Vic Black and Jenrry Mejia combined for 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Mejia stuck out the side in the ninth for his fifth save.

Coincidence or not, the Mets are 3-0 since Lamar Johnson took over as hitting coach.

Wheeler allowed only four hits and did not walk a batter. It marked only the third time in 28 career starts he did not walk a batter.

He was struck on the right hip/backside with a line drive off the bat of Cesar Hernandez in the second inning, but clearly showed no ill effects the rest of his outing.

Wheeler also went 1-for-3 at the plate as Mets pitchers rebound from a dreadful start to the season. Since an 0-for-64 stretch to begin the year, Mets pitchers are hitting .286 (8-for-28).

About the only blemish for Wheeler? His propensity for high pitch counts continued. He required 108 pitches to navigate 6 1/3 innings.

Wheeler’s final line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K.

Loaded question: The Mets continued to waste bases-loaded chances, which made the game closer than it ought to have been down the stretch.

Ignited by a bunt single from Lucas Duda with the Phillies playing an overshift, the Mets loaded the bases against rookie David Buchanan with none out in the second. They came away with only one run. Travis d’Arnaud, in his first at-bat since returning from the concussion DL, grounded into a run-scoring double play. Wheeler then grounded out.

Chris Young contributed a two-run homer in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.

The Mets again loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Buchanan then walked Curtis Granderson to force in a run, although Duda struck out and Young flied out.

So the Mets are now hitless in their last 12 chances with the bases loaded. Still, with d’Arnaud’s GIDP and Granderson’s walk, they have plated two baserunners in their last 13 chances with the bases loaded.

D’Arnaud finished 0-for-4, dropping his season average to .189.

What’s next: Rafael Montero (0-2, 4.96 ERA) opposes right-hander A.J. Burnett (3-4, 3.51) at 7:05 p.m. Friday.