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Somebody to Shove

I’ve had one conversation with Zack Wheeler [1] in my life. It came after his rookie season, two years after the Giants had traded him to the Mets for two months of Carlos Beltran. When I asked him about that July 2013 game — seven three-hit innings, one run allowed, plus his first double and RBI en route to a fairly easy win over San Francisco — he didn’t mask his spiteful glee from having reminded them who they gave up on when he was merely a minor leaguer. Zack smiled and told me he really wanted to “shove it against ’em”.

I never forgot that remark and I surely remembered it Sunday afternoon. If I were the type to bet on baseball, there’s no way I wouldn’t have put whatever I had available on Zack to keep on shovin’ against teams he used to pitch for.

Wheeler left the Mets as a free agent following the 2019 season. Brodie Van Wagenen and the ownership he represents didn’t exactly try to block the door with any kind of competitive offer. The Phillies lured Zack with a lot of years and a ton of money. It was a sensible deal to make only if you like knowing you’re likely to have a very good starting pitcher on your ballclub for something resembling the long haul.

The Mets, at the moment, are down in the starting pitcher category. Health, slumps, career arcs…none of it suggests a rotation that Wheeler would have trouble cracking let alone helming at this precise moment. Most of whatever the Mets had going for them entering Sunday — on-base streaks for Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto, a home run streak for Dom Smith, encouraging outings after rough first innings for Rick Porcello [2] — all opted for a day of rest. Nimmo and Conforto neither hit nor walked or took one for the team. Smith stayed in the yard. Porcello had his usual first-inning stumble (in five first innings this season, Rick is pitching to an ERA of 12.60), seemed to recover (his second-inning ERA is down to 1.80), but eventually got tagged for four earned runs on ten hits in six innings, the tipping-point blow coming from Andrew McCutchen via a tie-breaking two-run homer (Rick’s ERA in all innings currently stands at 5.76).

A couple more runs crossed the Citizens Bank Park plate to give the Phillies six in all. Six on Friday. Six on Saturday. Six on Sunday. That’s 6-6-6 in case you were playing the numbers. Throw in an extra 6 for the quantity of hits the devilishly effective Wheeler scattered over seven innings in the 6-2 Mets loss [3], and you can draw your own satanic conclusions