Zack Wheeler roughed up as Mets woes against Nationals continue in 10-3 loss

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiHoward Simmons/New York Daily News Zack Wheeler cannot even make it out of the fifth inning, allowing six runs on seven hits and two walks.

For a long stretch of this season – 10 weeks – Zack Wheeler didn’t have a bad day on the baseball diamond. On Saturday night, however, the Mets were playing the Nationals at Citi Field. This season, when those two things happen at the same time, nothing good happens for the Mets.

Washington pounded Wheeler as he hadn’t been pounded since a two-inning outing against Oakland on June 25. The young star couldn’t even record an out in the fifth inning before getting the hook and ended up being charged with six runs in four-plus innings as the Nationals pasted the Mets, 10-3, before an announced crowd of 28,849 in a persistent drizzle.

“I didn’t have my command. Whenever I did throw a strike, something crazy happened,” Wheeler said. “They got the best of me tonight.”

It wasn’t just Wheeler, the Nats dominated every aspect of the game. They hammered out 15 hits to the Mets’ six while the Mets committed four errors.

“When you look up and there’s guys all over the bases all the time, it gets ugly,” manager Terry Collins said.

Washington has won eight of nine against the Mets at Citi Field this season and 12 of the last 13 meetings in Queens. The Nats lead the season series 12-3 and have outscored the Mets 81-43. Against the rest of baseball, the Mets are four games over .500 and plus-29 in run differential.

Now 72-77, the Mets would have to finish 9-4 to keep this from being their sixth straight losing season. They are 6.5 games out in the race for the second NL wild card spot.

In 13 starts since the Oakland disaster, Wheeler (10-10) was 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA. He had been plagued by high pitch counts, but almost always effective. He was nothing like that Saturday as he allowed seven hits and two walks.

“Something was wrong with my mechanics and I couldn’t figure it out,” Wheeler said. “I came in and looked at video and couldn’t figure it out. I just felt a little ‘awkward-slash-different’ out there.”

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiHoward Simmons/New York Daily News Bryce Harper admires his two-run home run that puts the Nationals up 2-0.

Part of the problem could lie in Wheeler’s 174.1 innings pitched. The most he’d previously thrown in a season was the 168.2 last year between Triple-A and the majors. He says he feels healthy and strong – he’s recently cut down how much he throws between starts – but this looked a bit like hitting a wall.

“If he’s going to look 200 innings in the face next year, he’s got to learn how to deal with it,” Collins said. “Everybody has a tough night and tonight was his.”

“Everybody’s more tired of course at the end of the year, but it’s nothing that you can’t push through to finish strong,” Wheeler said.

Bryce Harper crushed a two-run homer into the upper deck in right to give the Nats a 2-0 lead and they added another run in the third when Ian Desmond stole third and scored when Travis d’Arnaud’s throw sailed into left field. Wheeler, consistently behind in the count, was already at 67 pitches by the end of the frame.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiHoward Simmons/New York Daily News Dilson Herrera cannot come up with a ground ball on the wet field during Saturday night’s game against the Nationals.

Denard Span led off the fifth drawing a walk and then stole second. Anthony Rendon hit a ground ball to shortstop Wilmer Flores, but Flores’ attempt to get Span going back to second was unsuccessful, putting two men on. On Wheeler’s 100th pitch, Jayson Werth roped an RBI single to right, ending Wheeler’s night. Reliever Gonzalez German did Wheeler no favors by giving up a two-run single to Desmond that made it 6-0.

The Mets finally broke through against Nats starter Doug Fister (14-6) on a two-run homer by Flores in the fifth to cut the margin to 6-2. Curtis Granderson’s run-scoring single the next inning made it 7-3 and the Nats got a run-scoring double from Desmond in the eighth and a two-run homer from Span in the ninth to complete the debacle.

“When you don’t pitch,” Collins said, “the game gets ugly.” 

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