CHICAGO — His bags packed and his mind ready to move, Zack Wheeler spent most of the past few weeks figuring he’d be pitching for another team come August. He is a pending free agent, the Mets looked like trade-deadline sellers, and trade-deadline sellers typically trade their pending free agents. It seemed inevitable.
And then 4 p.m. Wednesday came and went, bringing Wheeler clarity — just not the kind he expected. There was no trade. He is staying with the Mets the next two months and maybe beyond. He was glad all that was over, he admitted, so that he could get back to pitching.
As the Mets topped the White Sox, 4-0, on Thursday, Wheeler got back to dominating, too. He tossed seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking none, in the Mets’ seventh consecutive win.
Almost everything is going well right now for the Mets, who have been beating up on bad teams — Padres, Pirates, White Sox — to move within four games of a National League wild-card spot. They have seven more games against bad teams, three with the Pirates in Pittsburgh this weekend and four with the Marlins at Citi Field next week, before the schedule gets more difficult.
“I feel like we’re kind of flowing at this point,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We’re obviously still not where we wanted to be at this point, but you can’t worry about what’s happened. All you can do is keep on pushing forward. I feel like the players are focused on that.”
Added Jeff McNeil: “Feeling really good. We’re right back in this thing. Hopefully go to Pittsburgh and do the same thing.”
Wheeler’s gem and scoreless relief outings from Luis Avilan and Jeurys Familia improved the Mets’ second-half ERA to 2.56, best in the majors. The White Sox never had a runner reach second.
In his first scoreless game since April 23, Wheeler (4.45 ERA) scattered four hits, none until there were two outs in the fourth. Jose Abreu’s line drive glanced off the glove of a diving Amed Rosario for a single. Callaway lifted Wheeler after 88 pitches, a normal bump from his 73 last start, his first back from the injured list.
“That was probably one of the better games I’ve ever seen him pitch,” Callaway said. “Just relaxed, fluid, executing pitch after pitch, not overthrowing at all. Kept his pitch count down. Just a tremendous job today.”
Wheeler said his slider was “working good” and his changeup was “a lot better.”
“When you got all that working,” Wheeler said, “it makes it a lot easier.”
Amed Rosario, defensively challenged early this year, made a pair of diving stops on grounders up the middle (one of which started an inning-ending double play in the eighth). Robinson Cano, the slumping cleanup hitter, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. He had been 2-for-30 — with a career-worst 0-for-23 stretch mixed in — since his three-homer game last week.
“Felt like a month,” Cano said. “That’s the beauty of baseball. One day you do really good, you don’t know what’s going to happen the next two or three games.”
White Sox righthander Dylan Cease, ranked as the No. 25 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, allowed four runs in seven innings, the longest of his five major-league starts. He was cruising most of the afternoon — the Mets scored only on Cano’s homer in the second — but had trouble in the Mets’ three-run sixth, highlighted by Cano’s RBI double.
“It’s clicking together — defense, offense and pitching,” Cano said. “We’ve been positive all year. We didn’t quit as a team. That’s a great thing about us.”