When the Mets cut Chris Young and recalled Matt den Dekker a week ago, an under-discussed part of the plan was to play Eric Campbell in leftfield against lefthanded pitching.
Problem is, there aren't that many lefthanded starters in the big leagues. But the Mets faced one Friday night in Travis Wood of the Cubs, and Campbell was in the lineup.
Score one for the Mets' decision-makers: Campbell swatted a three-run home run in the fourth inning to back another strong outing by Zack Wheeler as the Mets snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory at Citi Field.
Wheeler (8-8, 3.49 ERA) allowed two runs and four hits in 62/3 innings with four walks and 10 strikeouts. It was his third career double-digit strikeout game. He threw a career-high 120 pitches. Since June 30, Wheeler is 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA.
The Mets trailed 2-0 when Wood (7-10, 4.86) walked David Wright and Lucas Duda to open the fourth. Usually, the Mets do not make pitchers pay for such malfeasance -- and so it seemed when Travis d'Arnaud popped up to first.
Campbell, however, had other plans. The rookie jumped on the first pitch from Wood and sent it to the party deck in left for his second home run of the season and his career.
"I'm just trying to win games right now," Campbell said. "I'm not worried about next year. If I play like I've always played, I'm confident that I can be here for a long time."
Can a platoon of two 27-year-olds in den Dekker and Campbell prove to be powerful enough to help the Mets the rest of this season and into next?
"When we were going to decide to make this move, one of the reasons was we wanted to get Eric Campbell in there against lefthanded pitching," manager Terry Collins said. "We said, 'Hey, look, we've got to see Eric Campbell against some lefthanders.' "
Campbell came into the game batting .290 with one home run, eight RBIs and a .720 OPS in 62 at-bats against southpaws. He went 1-for-2 with a walk against Wood.
"The home run tonight is something he doesn't do a lot of," Collins said. "When he starts hitting homers, he's going to be coming into my office asking for days off because that's what's going to keep him in the lineup."
Wheeler struck out five and allowed two singles in the first two innings. He opened the third by walking Wood, a .267 hitter with three home runs and 10 RBIs entering the game.
One out later, Javier Baez singled to center, with Wood going to third. Anthony Rizzo followed with a grounder to second that Daniel Murphy bobbled before getting the out at first as Wood scored the game's first run. Murphy had thought about throwing home even though he was playing back, but the bobble spoiled the thought. Starlin Castro then grounded a single to center to give Chicago a 2-0 lead.
After getting a one-run lead, Wheeler did not allow another hit, though he walked one each in the fourth and fifth. He struck out the first two batters in the seventh before walking Chris Coghlan and being removed to a standing ovation.
Vic Black struck out Baez to end the inning, Jeurys Familia fanned two in the eighth and Jenrry Mejia struck out one in a perfect ninth to notch his 18th save.
The Cubs, who whiffed 14 times, have struck out 91 times in their last eight games.
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