PHILADEPHIA -- Zack Wheeler, who admittedly has been grumpy after many 2014 starts, could feel pretty good Thursday. Wheeler took a scoreless effort into the seventh inning before surrendering a solo homer to Marlon Byrd. The Mets ultimately beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 at Citizens Bank Park.
"It feels really good, obviously," said Wheeler, who had impeccable control. "I can actually smile after a start now."
New York Mets
Wheeler struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings. Combined with the relief corps, it marked only the fourth game in franchise history in which the staff struck out 15 or more while walking none, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It was the first time since 1989.
"I knew I had it today," said Wheeler, whose first five outs came via strikeout. "I could locate all of my pitches. It's easy when you can locate all of your pitches and everything is working."
Said Travis d'Arnaud: "Today his command was off the charts."
Wheeler had been particularly working of late to improve the command of his slider. He had been getting "under" the ball with his fingers and had not been able to throw it for a strike in previous starts. That allowed batters to disregard the pitch and sit on his fastball. This time, he knew exactly where the slider was going.
"I probably 'backdoored' more than I threw inside," Wheeler said. "That's rare for me to do. I just had a lot of control today."
As for the Byrd homer on a first-pitch fastball, Wheeler said: "I probably should have thrown something else because we started him off with an outside fastball the first two at-bats. He was 'dead red' on it."
Wheeler also has worked to be less predictable -- no longer throwing exclusively fastballs in fastball counts (2-0, 3-1, etc.).
"Over my past two starts I've just been mixing it up like crazy," he said.
Wheeler does want to be more efficient with his pitches. He required 108 pitches to get through 6 1/3 innings.
"I would have liked to have gone a little bit longer into the seventh pitch-count-wise," Wheeler said. "It's one of those things."
He was struck with a liner off the bat of Cesar Hernandez in the second inning, but said his backside did not hurt until after he left the game.
Teammates slapped him on the posterior to congratulate him on his performance.