Zack Wheeler  struck out eleven Phillies in the course of throwing seven shutout innings Tuesday night at Citi Field, which was extremely nice and fairly necessary. Wheeler’s a pitcher, and it’s his job to pitch very well. Replicating his trajectory of 2018, except sooner, he’s gone from shaky outings to beginning to find himself to totally kicking it in gear.
Don’t mistake our blasé reaction for apathy. Believe us, we care. We care for the first-place Mets’ 9-0 victory  over the second-place Phillies. We care for previously presumed extraneous third baseman Todd Frazier  launching a grand slam off Drew Anderson in the fifth and putting the affair fully out of the reach of the visiting Pennsylvania Proprietors (they do own second place). We care for Jacob Rhame  letting one or two get away in the direction of Rhys Hoskins in the ninth after the way Phillie pitchers have been plunking Met batters, though we wish he was a little more subtle and a little less wild about it (we usually wish Rhame wasn’t on the mound at all, but a nine-run lead seemed safe enough). We certainly care that Wheeler aced the bulk of his exam by throwing like an ace.
But, really, we care that Zack — two innings after doubling in two runs — blasted his very first major league home run, off another Zach (Eflin), partly because we love when Mets homer; partly because we love even more when Mets pitchers homer; mostly because we freaking love how much Mets pitchers have homered over the course of these past ten seasons.
Did you know that we’re living in the golden age of Mets pitchers slugging? This decade that’s winding down, whether you call it the ’10s or the teens, has encompassed more home runs hit by Mets pitchers than any others? Ya do now.
Wheeler’s long ball to left in the fourth, over not only the candy-coated party deck barrier but the original Great Wall of Flushing, gave the decennial pitching home run crown to the staff of the 2010s. It also allowed the franchise’s pitchers as a collective to equal both Roger Maris’s longtime single-season, single-batter record of 61 home runs and the 1980 Mets’ teamwide output of 61 home runs, which also represents a longtime record for a campaign uninterrupted by strike. Each of those entities required 162 games to establish their marks. The nine Mets pitchers who have harnessed the power to produce 15 Mets homers in the 2010s needed only 14 games. Technically, the Mets have played 1,481 regular-season games since April 5, 2010, but the 1,467 games in which a Mets pitcher didn’t homer were, for the purposes of this celebration, PBP — or as we might have to explain to the sad, unimaginative poobahs who have consigned the American League to perpetual boredom, pitchers batting practice.
You know what else Mets pitchers who homer practice besides going deep? Modesty. They may take their shots at the fence while in the box, but they never take them at their victims after games. They’ve been the luckiest men on the face of the earth, to judge by their quotes. Heck, judge for yourself. To commemorate the occasion when the 2010s officially became the Decade of the Slugging Met Pitcher, we present a hastily cobbled oral history, mined from the postgame reflections of the pitchers who took their cuts and rounded their bases yet didn’t want to make too big a thing out of it.
That’s all right. That’s what we’re here to do.
“They said it was enough, that was all I needed for the game. I hit it and I started running. I didn’t believe it was out. I’m on the board. At least I hit one.”
—Johan Santana, July 6, 2010; solo HR off Matt Maloney, third inning; Mets 3 Reds 0 at Citi Field
“I happened to get lucky and caught it good. I didn’t know if it was out and I was watching; that’s why I almost missed first base.”
—Jeremy Hefner, May 29, 2012; solo HR off Joe Blanton, fourth inning; Mets 6 Phillies 3 at Citi Field
“Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday and when I asked him what he wanted all he wanted was a ‘W’. I think I gave him a little extra with that. This one has my dad’s name written all over it.”
—Noah Syndergaard, May 27, 2015; solo HR off Sean O’Sullivan, fourth inning; Mets 7 Phillies 0 at Citi Field
“I think the big thing going around now is that we can rake. I wasn’t doing my job very well. I think that might have helped the cause a little bit.”
—Matt Harvey, July 11, 2015; two-run HR off Patrick Corbin, fifth inning; Mets 4 Diamondbacks 2 at Citi Field
“I don’t even know how to explain it. I’m very thankful. I thank God for this amazing moment, and I wasn’t expecting it. Once I hit it I knew it was gone. The ball in San Diego travels well.”
—Bartolo Colon, May 7, 2016; two-run HR off James Shields, second inning; Mets 6 Padres 3 at Petco Park
“I don’t think I ever hit two home runs in Little League. To hit two home runs in a big league game, especially with a pitcher like Maeda out there, it was an ultimate experience.
—Syndergaard, May 11, 2016; solo HR off Kenta Maeda, third inning and three-run HR off Maeda, fifth inning; Mets 4 Dodgers 3 at Dodger Stadium
“It’s an awesome feeling. I kind of watched it a little on that one.”
—Syndergaard, August 16, 2016; two-run HR off Braden Shipley, fifth inning; Mets 7 Diamondbacks 5 at Chase Field
“I think I got lucky. I was running pretty hard. I didn’t know it was gone.”
—Jacob deGrom, June 18, 2017; solo HR off Joe Ross, third inning; Mets 5 Nationals 1 at Citi Field
“Jogging around the bases was pretty surreal. I always looked forward to that moment when I was a little kid, you know? That was pretty killer. I knew I was going to get a home run sometime, but had to give it to myself.”
—Seth Lugo, July 15, 2017; solo HR off Chris Rusin, third inning; Mets 9 Rockies 3 at Citi Field
“It was a good feeling, I know that. I definitely got all of it, and it definitely felt good to get my first one.”
—Steven Matz, September 13, 2018 (Game One); two-run HR off Sandy Alcantara, second inning; Mets 4 Marlins 3 at Citi Field
“I don’t really know. I have no explanation for you.”
—Matz, September 18, 2018; solo HR off Aaron Nola, third inning; Phillies 5 Mets 2 at Citizens Bank Park
“I told Nimmo, ‘I am not taking the first pitch,’ and I was fortunate enough to be on time.”
—deGrom, April 3, 2019; solo HR off Trevor Richards, third inning; Mets 6 Marlins 4 at Marlins Park
“It would have been a great win today, but I let the team down.”
—Syndergaard, April 21, 2019; solo HR off Dakota Hudson, fourth inning; Cardinals 6 Mets 4 at Busch Stadium
“Pitching’s obviously first, but we work a lot on our hitting and we take pride in it. We want to do well and go up there as a staff and not give them an easy out. Luckily, I wasn’t an easy out tonight.”
—Wheeler, April 23, 2019; solo HR off Zach Eflin, fourth inning; Mets 9 Phillies 0 at Citi Field