MIAMI -- Zack Wheeler found the right two seams on his fastball and reared back to throw. Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton stood, waiting as always to pounce on a mistake.
But there will be nights when there are few mistakes, and even when Wheeler makes them, they're unhittable. In that seventh-inning at-bat Tuesday night, when the Mets scraped together a 4-2 victory in 10 innings, Wheeler displayed just how dominant he can be when everything comes together.
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"That was probably the best two-seamer I've ever thrown,'' said Wheeler, who handcuffed Stanton with a 96-mph pitch.
It was just one example of Wheeler's raw ability, which he showcased by keeping the Marlins hitless until the seventh, when rookie Ed Lucas drilled a clean single to rightfield. But until that moment, Wheeler tempted history, the fifth time a Met took a no-hitter into the seventh this season.
"We've seen a few other ones like that this year,'' Terry Collins said. "That might have been about as dominant a performance through six innings as I've seen all year from anybody.''
Catcher John Buck delivered the knockout blow, breaking a 2-2 tie with his two-run, bases-loaded single in the 10th. That gave the Mets their first extra-inning win against the Marlins, who had beaten them this season in 10, 15 and 20 innings.
But it was the 23-year-old Wheeler who stole the show in only his eighth big-league start.
"I felt smooth throughout with my mechanics,'' he said. "Rhythm was good, good tempo in between pitches, everything was just clicking well and I was hitting my spots.''
Wheeler did not allow a baserunner until walking Stanton in the fourth. Nevertheless, he did not factor into the decision after allowing a pair of runs in the seventh. He departed after allowing two runs on three hits. He walked three and struck out five.
Over his first seven starts, Wheeler had shown flashes of his raw ability, snapshots of his overpowering fastball and fleeting glimpses of his secondary offerings. Command remained elusive.
Yet with every start, Wheeler moved closer toward his ideal. Against the Marlins, Wheeler revealed his progress, one blazing heater at a time.
The Mets did their part, staking the righthander to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning against righthander Nathan Eovaldi. With two outs and runners on the corners, Juan Lagares cleared the bases with a triple.
And for a while, his big hit appeared to be enough. As Wheeler took his no-hit bid into the seventh, only Logan Morrison had put the barrel to the ball, hitting a long fly ball. But Wheeler would soon have bigger concerns than reaching for a slice of history.
The Marlins looked overmatched for six innings. But with one out in the seventh, they roared to life for the first time against Wheeler, who struck out Stanton and walked Morrison before surrendering the first hit to Lucas, and it triggered a rally.
Donovan Solano followed with an RBI single to leftfield to score Morrison. Jake Marisnick then dumped a tying single in front of centerfielder Lagares. With that, Wheeler found himself breathing a sigh of relief after escaping the inning with a 6-6-3 double play grounder from light-hitting catcher Jeff Mathis.
It would be the last of Wheeler's 87 pitches.
Said Buck: "This will be a game he can reference.''