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Zack Wheeler lets wheels fall off in fourth by not completing double play

Zack Wheeler walks off after being taken out

Zack Wheeler walks off after being taken out of the game against the Phillies in fourth inning on Saturday, July 1, 2017. Wheeler could not catch a throw by Jose Reyes at first base. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Zack Wheeler was back on the mound for the Mets on Saturday, and for three innings, he was the reliable pitcher of May and early June. There was no apparent discomfort from the biceps tendinitis that prevented him from pitching since June 19 and landed him on the disabled list.

But it came apart quickly in the fourth inning and Wheeler took a no-decision in the Mets’ 7-6 victory over the Phillies. He said he felt good, but his ego seemed a bit bruised.

Wheeler had allowed only a first-inning single by Odubel Herrera when the Phillies came up in the fourth with the Mets leading 1-0. He retired Aaron Altherr on a grounder back to the mound for the first out, but Tommy Joseph hit a grounder to third that was booted by T.J. Rivera for an error.

“After that, I don’t know if he lost focus or what it was,’’ Terry Collins said.

Wheeler loaded the bases by issuing consecutive walks to Nick Williams and Maikel Franco, but when former Met Ty Kelly grounded to first baseman Lucas Duda, he seemed as if he might be out of the inning. Duda’s throw to shortstop Jose Reyes got Franco for the forceout, and Reyes fired the ball to Wheeler covering first in an attempt to complete the double play.

Wheeler was unable to catch the ball, though, and it headed into foul territory. Two unearned runs scored on his error and the Phillies had a 2-1 lead.

Wheeler said Rivera’s error had nothing to do with his undoing.

“No, I always prided myself on if a guy makes an error behind me, just go back and get the next guy,’’ he said. “I don’t let that bother me.’’

Regarding his own error on the throw from Reyes, Wheeler said, “It was happening pretty quick. I didn’t break right away like I should have. Jose’s got a strong arm and he had to throw it pretty hard to get it there because Ty was moving down the line pretty well.

“I was just trying to find the bag and catch it all at one time. That was my fault. I should have made the play. It’s never easy trying to catch a hard ball and tag the base. But it’s my fault. That’s what we do in spring training all the time, so I should have made the play.’’

Wheeler was removed after Cameron Rupp singled to left. He allowed two hits and struck out four.

Collins said he thought Wheeler was a “tad’’ fatigued and wanted him out before further damage could occur.

“No, I didn’t expect to come out,’’ Wheeler said. “I felt fine . . . It’s not my decision.’’

Wheeler’s ERA was down to 3.45 after a no-decision against the Rangers in Texas on June 7. But he gave up 15 earned runs and 14 hits, including five home runs, in 3 2⁄3 innings in his next two starts and his ERA ballooned to 5.29.

“Physically, I felt fine,’’ he said of his start. “I struggled a little bit, but I think I’m on the right track. I feel a little better, mechanically, stuff like that. I’m in the right direction after those two bad starts. Hopefully I can keep it going.’’

New York Sports