SAN DIEGO — The Mets envisioned plenty of games like these, nightly masterpieces crafted by a stable of talented young arms. On Monday night, Jacob deGrom stifled the Padres on the way to a 5-3 victory, equaling a franchise record with his eighth straight win in a single season.
But deGrom has been the notable exception for the Mets (46-51), who appear to be sellers as the trade deadline approaches partly because of a pitching staff that can’t stay healthy. That reality presented itself Monday afternoon when righthander Zack Wheeler landed on the disabled list for the second time this year.
Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler felt issues in the humerus bone in the upper portion of his arm. The pitcher described his symptoms as soreness and persistent aching in his arm. Wheeler said a CT scan confirmed that the “bone was a little irritated.”
“I think it’s something that came along from just not pitching for two years and sort of ramping it back up,” Wheeler said.
After being sidelined for two full seasons, Wheeler braced for the likelihood of setbacks. But mentally preparing himself for such hurdles hasn’t dulled the frustration of his latest flare-up, a stress injury in his right arm.
The Mets will promote righty Chris Flexen from Double-A Binghamton to start in Wheeler’s place Thursday against the Padres. Flexen, 23, was a 14th-rounder in the 2012 draft. But he has jumped on the radar with a 1.66 ERA in 48 2⁄3 innings with Binghamton. In that span, he has 50 strikeouts with just seven walks.
One rival scout questioned whether Flexen is ready for the jump to the big leagues. But the scout projected that he has good enough stuff to be a potential rotation option in the future. Another talent evaluator noted Flexen’s strike-throwing ability, with an arsenal that features a plus fastball that tops out at 95 mph that he pairs with a low 90s cutter and a slider.
“He’s had some very, very good starts in Binghamton and we’re anxious to see him,” Collins said. “Very anxious.”
In the meantime, righthander Tyler Pill was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to pitch out of the bullpen.
Wheeler, 27, has landed on the disabled list twice in his first season back following a two-year absence following Tommy John surgery. This time, he has been diagnosed with a stress injury, defined as a weakening of the bone but without the presence of a fracture. Though his latest injury isn’t expected to cause an extended absence, the Mets did not reveal a timetable for his return.
“Rest is about the only thing that’s going to help it as far as I understand,” said Wheeler, who is 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts for the Mets
Wheeler is one of five Mets starters on the disabled list, joining Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman and Tommy Milone. Meanwhile, deGrom continued setting himself apart from the group, showing why the Mets refuse to entertain trading him for a haul of prospects.
The righty was on the way to a shutout until Hunter Renfroe’s seventh-inning moonshot and a run-scoring double in the eighth by Carlos Asuaje. Renfroe later homered in the ninth off closer Addison Reed, who survived trouble when Jabari Blash just missed a walk-off three-run homer down the rightfield line. Reed, the Mets’ most valuable trade chip, retired Blash and Matt Szcur to preserve the win.
Jay Bruce knocked in a pair of runs, Yoenis Cespedes tripled home another, and Wilmer Flores homered. Later, Jose Reyes stole the 500th base of his career, setting up an eighth-inning single by Travis d’Arnaud.
“It means a lot,” Reyes said. “That’s a big number, 500 stolen bases.”
All of it was in support of deGrom, who struck out eight in eight innings. He equaled the franchise record for most consecutive wins by Bobby Jones in 1997. No Mets pitcher has ever won nine straight starts in a single season.
“The thing that stands out most is his competitiveness,” Collins said. “This guy just doesn’t give in.”
During his eight-game winning streak, deGrom has a 1.61 ERA, arguably the most dominant stretch of his career. In that stretch, he has rediscovered the pinpoint control that has defined his career.
“Just the command,” said deGrom, who dispensed with the Padres despite pitching through discomfort in his right foot. “I’ve been able to throw my fastball to both sides of the plate and work off that.”