Wheeler tops Giants, who drafted him in '09
Mets rookie also adds RBI double as New York offense has big day
SAN FRANCISCO -- As far as baseball homecomings go, Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler's couldn't have turned out much better Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park against the Giants, the team that traded him to New York in 2011.
Wheeler, starting against the Giants for the first time in his career, allowed just one run on three hits over seven innings, lifting the Mets to a 7-2 victory and a sweep of the three-game series.
Making just his fifth Major League start, Wheeler dominated the Giants, shutting them out for the first six innings. He had a no-hitter through 3 2/3 innings before Pablo Sandoval blooped a single to right. The Giants didn't get another hit off Wheeler until Kensuke Tanaka singled in the sixth.
"I was really looking forward to it," Wheeler said. "I think I told some of the guys earlier that I really wanted to do well. I was able to do that and it feels pretty good."
Wheeler didn't allow an extra-base hit, but he had an RBI double in the sixth inning -- his first extra-base hit and RBI in the Majors -- and also scored his first big league run when Daniel Murphy hit a double.
Wheeler, who improved his record to 3-1, struck out five, walked three and threw 101 pitches, 64 for strikes.
"That's the best all-around stuff I've seen so far," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Great movement on his fastball. Changeup was the best I've seen. Used his breaking stuff when he needed to, but I thought his changeup really kept them off the fastball, and he got some easy outs. His ball had good life today, and he got it in on some right-handed hitters. I was very impressed."
The Giants drafted Wheeler in 2009 with the sixth overall pick, but they traded him to the Mets on July 28, 2011, for outfielder Carlos Beltran and cash.
San Francisco, the reigning World Series champion that season, was making a push to get back in the postseason and was in desperate need of another big bat. The Giants paid a steep price for Beltran and still missed the postseason. During his short stay with the Giants, Beltran battled injuries and drove in just 18 runs while hitting seven home runs. He played only 44 games for the Giants before signing with the Cardinals as a free agent.
"I got drafted by the Giants. Obviously I wanted to pitch here," Wheeler said of AT&T Park. "It's definitely a pitcher-friendly park. I was lucky enough to get traded. I'm in a good situation now. I'm happy here where I'm at. Hopefully it goes forward."
Wheeler, 23, made his Major League debut on June 18 at Atlanta, allowing no runs and four hits over six innings in a 6-1 Mets victory. Since his debut, Wheeler's command has continued to improve.
"I think he has a chance to be very good," Collins said. "When we got him everybody said he has a chance to be a No. 1, No. 2 starter in somebody's rotation. At times he's looked like that in the Minor Leagues, and today he showed you that he has the capabilities of being that type of guy."
Wheeler impressed Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
"He's got a good fastball, life to it," Bochy said. "He's got good stuff. We're not swinging the bats well right now and [opposing pitchers] are hard to read in some games, but he pitched well."
Wheeler kept his emotions in check on what shaped up as an emotional day.
"Honestly, I didn't know how I was going to feel out there," Wheeler said. "I didn't know if my adrenaline was going to be out of the roof or whatever. But I came in from the bullpen and I was pretty relaxed and calm. I just went out there with that mindset."
The Mets gave Wheeler all the support he needed in the first inning when they scored three runs and knocked Giants right-hander Matt Cain out of the game. Cain retired just two batters in the shortest start of his career, spanning 254 starts.
Eric Young led off the game with a walk, stole second and went to third when Giants catcher Buster Posey's throw went into center field for an error. Murphy singled Young home. Cain walked Ike Davis with one out and Kirk Nieuwenhuis with two outs, loading the bases. John Buck sent a two-run single to center, ending Cain's day as rookie reliever Mike Kickham took over.
"He's obviously a good pitcher," Buck said of Cain. "This game can be evil sometimes."
Marlon Byrd hit his team-high 15th home run of the season in the fifth, a two-run shot off Kickham that put the Mets ahead 5-0. Davis had singled with two outs, and Byrd, who hit a grand slam on Tuesday night, brought him home with a blast to center.
The Mets increased their lead to 7-0 in the sixth. After Buck doubled, Wheeler doubled him home then scored on Murphy's double.