Zack Wheeler lost it for a moment in the fourth inning Sunday. "It" being the consistency in his mechanics, which has escaped the righthander quite often in his two major-league seasons.
"A little timing issue," Wheeler said. "Somewhere in my motion, the timing gets off and I lose it."
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That fourth inning: With two outs, Wheeler hung a slider to the Rangers' Robinson Chirinos, who hit a home run. He then walked Carlos Pena, a .128 hitter, on five pitches. And then . . .
"I found it," Wheeler, 24, said with a smile. "That's a big thing for me because I haven't always been able to find it after I lose the rhythm in my mechanics."
However "it" was retrieved -- a mental lost-and-found? -- Wheeler quickly righted himself, getting a grounder for the third out and allowing only the homer. He strung together consecutive "quality starts" for the first time in more than a month, allowing a run, six hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 61/3 innings to earn the win in the Mets' 8-4 victory at Citi Field.
"I could tell he was searching a little bit . . . but I knew he had an idea and wasn't just lost," catcher Anthony Recker said. "Mentally, this will help him down the road."
What happens when Wheeler can't find it? Recker mentioned his June 8 start against the Giants as an example. He allowed four earned runs in 32/3 innings.
The mechanical issue, Recker explained, is Wheeler's tendency to sometimes rush his delivery and throw across his body.
"It seems like he gets excited and comes at me a little early," he said. "He has great stuff . . . He just has to stay within himself and let things happen."
The victory was Wheeler's first since a June 19 shutout of the Marlins. He lowered his ERA to 4.07.
Wheeler, to a degree, has been a victim of bad luck this season. His ERA is up from 3.42 last year, but he is allowing fewer line drives and inducing more ground balls. Still, Wheeler said he has "to be more consistent."
Manager Terry Collins said Sunday that he expects Wheeler to become "a great one." To do that, he will have to become adept at quick self-correction. This, the Mets said, was a step toward that.