Zack Wheeler never forgot a fact he read about the 2010 Giants, who won the World Series with a rotation that was almost entirely homegrown.
As Giants property, he imagined himself as part of a similar future, taking advantage of pitcher-friendly AT&T Park and helping the team that drafted him win another championship. He held onto that vision until the moment his phone rang in late July 2011, when he learned he'd been traded to the Mets.
So began the journey that led Wheeler back to San Francisco Wednesday, where in his blue Mets uniform he showed the Giants what they mortgaged for half a season of Carlos Beltran. In the Mets' 7-2 victory, Wheeler looked like a future ace, allowing one run and three hits in seven innings while at times making it look easy.
"I really wanted to do well here and I was able to do that," Wheeler said. "That feels really good."
Marlon Byrd hit his third homer in five games and Wheeler even added an RBI double -- his first extra-base hit in the big leagues -- as the Mets completed their first sweep in San Francisco since 1994 at windswept Candlestick Park. It was the 16th loss in 19 games for the defending world champions.
The Mets (40-48) extended their winning streak to four, three against the Giants, and improved to 16-9 in their last 25. They did so by knocking out Matt Cain (5-6), tagging him for three runs in only two-thirds of an inning, the shortest outing of his nine-year career.
By contrast, Wheeler settled into the driver's seat from the first batter on, despite concerns that he might be too amped up against the team that traded his future for Beltran, who played only 44 games for the 2011 Giants because of injuries.
"That's the best all-around stuff I've seen thus far,'' Terry Collins said.
Before the game, the manager didn't even bother trying to calm the 23-year-old righthander.
"I don't care what I say today, he's going to be amped up," Collins said. "He's got friends on the other team. This is the organization that he came up in. He was as highly thought of there as he is here. So you're not going to calm him down."
Across the way, Wheeler caught glimpses of familiar faces, including Giants closer Sergio Romo, whom he regarded as a mentor. The two still talk, even making a friendly dinner wager last winter on the outcome of the 49ers-Falcons playoff game.
It had been more than four years since Wheeler threw a 98-mph fastball on the day he noticed Giants general manager Brian Sabean sitting in the stands at one of his high school games. And it had been nearly two years since he scraped the Giants decal off the back window of his pickup truck.
Yet Wheeler admitted he wanted to show the Giants what they had traded away. He didn't know what to expect when he walked onto the mound.
"I was actually really relaxed out there," he said.
Emboldened by bullpen sessions during which he made tweaks to sharpen his fastball command, Wheeler came out on the attack and never let up.
"He put in the work," catcher John Buck said.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen and Collins pushed Wheeler to bully hitters with his fastball. And the phenom executed the plan, going with heaters on 74 of his 101 pitches. Of the 27 batters he faced, he threw first-pitch strikes to 19. Of his seven innings, only once did he need 20 pitches.
Wheeler didn't allow a hit until Pablo Sandoval's two-out single to rightfield in the fourth. Wheeler picked up his third big-league victory, though few will be sweeter.
"I'm in a good situation now," he said. "I'm happy here.