CINCINNATI -- Is it better to be lucky, or good?
Is there a third answer? Like, maybe you can be both?
First there’s this: How good was Zack Wheeler against the Reds Sunday?
“I knew in the bullpen I had some good stuff today and I used it to my advantage I guess,” Wheeler said after the game.
“He had just absolutely A-plus stuff, I mean, my gosh almighty,” Mets Manager Terry Collins gushed.
He had great stuff, yes, but he also was able to get in -- and out -- of trouble along the way. Like when he gave up his first hit of the game in the fourth, and followed it up by hitting one batter and walking the next. Bases loaded. No outs. Just like that, his game had unraveled -- or so everyone thought.
New York Mets
Like a tight-rope walker, Wheeler teetered and tottered, but he didn’t fall. Instead he worked Brandon Phillips to 2-2 count before goading him into hitting a double-play ball right back to the mound. Wheeler collected, threw home for one out and watched as catcher Anthony Recker went to first for the double play. Ta-da. The inning looked a little more manageable.
“I’m just trying to get a groundball right there, and hopefully get a double play,” Wheeler said afterward. “If a run scores, a run scores. But luckily [it came] back to me and I was able to go home with it.”
It definitely raised some eyebrows in the clubhouse.
“Unbelievable. Tremendous job by him,” Collins said.
Next, Wheeler got Jay Bruce to ground out to the end the inning.
Easy, right? No, not at all.
Because the Mets needed more than their fair share of luck Sunday to defeat the Reds, like getting one of the best defensive teams in baseball to commit two errors. That’s how the Mets win a game where they don’t score an earned run -- they take advantage of errors. It overshadowed what was supposed to be a great matchup of young center-fielders -- Juan Lagares of the Mets and Billy Hamilton of the Reds.
“You’ve got to capitalize on them,” Collins said of the mistakes. “Mat [Latos] was really sharp today. Juan misjudged the ball off [Reds first baseman Jack] Hannahan’s bat and Billy dropped one in center-field. That’s something you don’t see by either guy.”
But it happened. Hamilton’s drop led to a game-tying run.
And how good and lucky was it that the Mets got an extra run -- a homer from the now-hot Curtis Granderson -- off a redo play, because he should have been out. His first contact was a pop up in foul territory near first base. But Hannahan bobbled it for an error, giving Granderson another chance.
He made them pay with a shot to right, and it proved to be the winning score.
“I’m really happy for him,” Collins said of Granderson. "We’ve still got 20 [games] to go and if we can get him swinging the bat you’ve got to like you’re chances. Like I’ve said, we’ve got to leave this season with him feeling good. So if he can stay hot for the last couple weeks, I think it’d be real advantageous.”
That’s what it’s about now -- feeling good for the stretch run, allowing those good feelings to then overlap into the offseason and into spring training. Collins says you want your team feeling emotionally well and physically well, which could mean tracking some innings for guys like Wheeler.
“We’re trying to keep a close eye on him -- we’ve got to finish the season with this guy healthy,” Collins said. “He’s shown way too much promise in this season. We cannot go into next season with a sore shoulder or sore elbow.”
At the end of the game, it was talent that helped the Mets get Wheeler the win. With reliever Jenrry Mejia struggling (he gave up two runs, then put two runners on with two out), he caught a bad break when Todd Frazier was called out on a grounder, then had the call reversed after more than a three-minute wait on a manager’s challenge.
The call loaded the bases for Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco. The momentum was on the side of the home team. Very unlucky.
“It might’ve given him a chance to refocus himself,” Collins said. “Take a deep breath, get on the mound and get ready, because you got one more hitter.”
Mejia struck out Mesoraco to the end the game. No luck needed.
“We got the win that’s all that counts,” Collins said. “We’ll take it.”
Montero set for Wednesday: Mets pitcher Rafael Montero, who joined the team in Cincinnati Sunday, will get a spot start Wednesday against the Rockies, pushing everyone else back a day, Manager Terry Collins said after the game.
“We’re looking at Montero probably pitching Wednesday, so we’ll give everybody an extra day. Hopefully it helps out,” he said.