Zack Wheeler was determined to finish the seventh inning in easily his best of four starts versus Washington this season, even as his pitch count climbed north of 110.
The righty was clocked for a two-run homer by Brian Dozier to snap a 1-1 tie, however, before the Mets rallied multiple times for a 6-5 victory Tuesday over the Nationals at Citi Field.
“I was a little tired. But I told them I felt good before I went out there, so that’s on me,” Wheeler said. “It’s frustrating. Like I said, I felt good when I was going out there. The number of pitches that inning, I was just trying to go out there and get quick outs. I did that early on, but I let one guy get on and I just hung that slider [to Dozier].”
Wheeler hadn’t fared well in his first three starts against the Nats this season; he’d been tattooed for a 9.77 ERA, including a six-run, 11-hit outing in a 7-6 loss in Washington last Thursday.
But Wheeler believed his slider was sharper than it had been in recent starts, and despite giving up a solo shot to Juan Soto in the second inning, he was locked in a 1-1 tie into the seventh.
Wheeler sandwiched two outs around a single by Gerardo Parra, before Dozier snapped an 0-for-37 personal skid against the Mets (including 27 at-bats this season) by crushing Wheeler’s 113th pitch of the night -- a 1-1 slider -- over the wall in left for a 3-1 Washington lead.
Mickey Callaway admitted he might have lifted Wheeler earlier in the inning had Seth Lugo (shoulder) not been on the disabled list, but the starter closed out the inning and finished with a season-high 118 pitches, his most since May 2014 against Arizona.
“You know what, he felt great, and with two outs he was still looking pretty good,” Callaway said of Wheeler. “Obviously, he hung a slider and Dozier made him pay. That would have been a tough call, had we had Lugo available. It would have been at least a stronger conversation in the dugout.”
J.D. Davis picked up Wheeler with a three-run homer as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, and Pete Alonso did the same with a game-tying moonshot after Jeurys Familia had surrendered the lead in the eighth. The Mets sealed their second straight win on Amed Rosario’s legged-out infield single one inning later, leaving Wheeler satisfied with his outing aside from the two home runs.
“I think I was pretty much on except when they got me those two,” Wheeler said. “The first one I tried to get it inside and just left it over the middle and [Soto] crushed it, and sometimes you just have to give them credit. Dozier, it was late in the game and I was a little tired, and the slider just hung up there a little bit, rather than it being sharp, and he was able to capitalize on it.
“Luckily, the guys picked me up, J.D. with that at-bat, and just [Rosario’s] hustle down the line at the end. You can’t ask for any more from these guys.”