Zack Wheeler turned in one of his finer performances on the mound Wednesday in the Mets extra-inning loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Wheeler was able to exercise some demons that have plagued him all season, as he got through the first inning unscathed, attacked hitters with strikes, and fought his way out of trouble with minimal damage. And while he can pat himself on the back for this one, he couldn’t have done it without new catcher Devin Mesoraco’s guidance.
Mesoraco, who was acquired on Tuesday in exchange for Matt Harvey, called a brilliant game for Wheeler. Zack continually pounded the strike zone, pitched batters inside, and most importantly, kept his walks to a minimum. He constantly put the ball where Mesoraco called for it, which led to a terrific six innings in which Wheeler yielded just four hits, three walks, and one run to go along with seven strikeouts.
The chemistry between Wheeler and Mesoraco was a breath of fresh air, as the new backstop instantly filled the void of leadership that’s plagued the Mets since losing Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki to injury.
Let’s use the bottom of the 6th inning as a prime example of what Mesoraco immediately brings to the table. Wheeler opened up the inning with a leadoff walk, and after two consecutive singles, the game was tied with no outs and runners on the corners. After a mound visit, Wheeler struck out the next batter. And despite throwing a series of well-placed pitches to the next batter, he walked the bases loaded.
Mesoraco paid another visit to the mound to keep Zack’s head in the game and shake off the previous walk. Wheeler then retired the next two batters and escaped the inning with the run as his lone blemish.
Wednesday’s loss should eat away at fans, as a dropped a series to the basement-dwelling Reds is unacceptable. But if there’s something to take away, it’s that Mesoraco seemed to have instantly fixed the lack of chemistry that had been missing between Mets pitchers and their backstops. Wheeler looked mightily improved from his last couple of starts, and if that can be attributed to Mesoraco, there is hope the staff can return to its early April form.
Photo credits: John Minchillo-AP