Zack Wheeler’s woes at Citi Field continued on Wednesday, as he was lifted in the 5th inning after getting knocked around by Blue Jays’ batters in the Mets 12-1 defeat.
It was one of the more bizarre outings of the season for Zack, who looked dominant out of the gate, but ultimately turned in another forgettable performance at home. And while most hurlers find solace in pitching out in front of the home crowd, Wheeler continued to buck the trend.
Wheeler came out guns blazing, as he retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced with six strikeouts through the first three innings of work. His lone blemish came off a solo shot to Justin Smoak in the first. It looked like Zack was on track to deliver his best performance of the year. But then came the rain and the boneheaded decision to play through despite there being puddles throughout the infield. After an 18 minute “delay,” in which the grounds crew covered the entire infield with Diamond Dry, the teams came back out and the first three innings became a distant memory. Wheeler looked like a different pitcher, and he gave up five runs between the fourth and fifth innings which ended his day early. After a promising first three innings, Wheeler’s final line was discouraging: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 BB.
While Wednesday’s performance may be an anomaly because of the weather, it’s strange to a see a pitcher perform so poorly at home, yet pitch so comfortably on the road. Wheeler’s home/away splits for his career are telling:
Home: 179 IP, 5.31 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
Away: 230 IP, 3.13 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
Despite pitching about 50 more innings away from Citi, his ERA is more than two points lower. Incredible. It’s clear that Zack prefers to pitch on the road, and the career trend has continued into this season:
Home: 16 IP, 9.56 ERA, 2.06 WHIP
Away: 22 IP, 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Wednesday’s loss was uninspiring, and there’s a lot more blame to pass around aside from Wheeler’s pitching performance. But it’s alarming to see a pitcher like Wheeler continue to struggle so mightily at home. And it was especially frustrating to see Zack start out so dominant just for everything to go so far south after the rain. It’s been an up-and-down 2018 for Wheeler, who seems to match every good start with a bad. But one thing remains constant: He just can’t find his form at Citi Field.
Photo credit: Paul J. Bereswill