WASHINGTON -- Hastened by a youth movement that has solidified the bullpen, the starting rotation, and parts of the starting lineup, the complexion of the Mets has changed since the last time they faced the Nationals on May 18.
The Mets showcased those changes in Tuesday’s series opener, a 6-1 triumph that was just the second in seven games this season against the Nationals.
Zack Wheeler, 24, looked like a veteran as he made adjustments to compensate for his poor command.
“You can let the game get away,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “But he didn’t.”
Wheeler talked about using the resources at hand to make quick fixes, namely easily accessible video and the expertise of pitching coach Dan Warthen. With those tools, Wheeler said he has been able to implement mechanical tweaks even the middle of games, a skill he's improved upon this season.
Wheeler grasped for the feel on his curveball. He got just one swing and a miss on the pitch -- or 7 percent -- down from the 13 percent he got entering his start. But Wheeler averaged 97 mph on his fastball last night, up from his average of 96.
That’s graduate level stuff. We get into it more in the gamer from Wednesday’s paper.
Lefthander Josh Edgin retired the only batter he faced -- Denard Span -- though the credit should go to Juan Lagares and his latest brilliant catch in centerfield. Righthander Jeurys Familia bounced back with a scoreless inning just one day after getting roughed up. We talked about it in the notebook.
At the plate
Daniel Murphy walked and tripled. But the biggest hit of the game came from Murphy in the seventh inning, and it might not have been a hit at all. With the Mets clinging to a 2-1 lead, Murphy thought he hit into a double play. But the ball rolled beneath the glove of second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera. Some would have scored it an error. It went down as a two-run single.
Said Murphy: “Panic to elation in mere nanoseconds.”
Kirk Nieuwenhuis made good on his first pinch-hitting appearance since his recall on Tuesday. He lined an RBI single. Lucas Duda knocked in a run with a blooper. Lagares also kept swinging a hot bat.
Wheeler helped his own cause, blooping an RBI single before laying down a sac bunt to move up a pair of runners.
With the glove
Jose Loboton’s drive to straightaway centerfield would have been over the heads of most outfielders. Lagares, however, is not most outfielders. But that was a mere appetizer for a sprawling play he made in the seventh to take away a run-scoring single from Denard Span.
Said Collins: “There’s no substitute for catching the baseball.”
Eric Campbell, making just his second start of the season in leftfield, kept the Mets in the lead with a perfect one-hop strike to nail Jayson Werth trying to score on Adam LaRoche’s single.
“I hope it does show them I can play out there a little bit more,” Campbell said.
For the second straight game, the Mets let up a run on a wild pitch, this time when catcher Travis d’Arnaud had a tough time backhanding a pitch in the dirt. Adam LaRoche was the beneficiary in the second inning, scoring from third base to give the Nationals their only run.
Mets lefty Jonathon Niese (5-7, 3.24) faces Nationals righty Doug Fister (10-3, 2.68) at 7:05 p.m.