MIAMI -- Hours before Friday night's 6-2 victory against the Marlins, Mets manager Mickey Callaway spoke about monitoring Zack Wheeler's innings as the season forges onward. He said he would be OK with his right-hander pitching deep into games so long as he's holding his velocity and checking in frequently
MIAMI -- Hours before Friday night's 6-2 victory against the Marlins, Mets manager Mickey Callaway spoke about monitoring Zack Wheeler's innings as the season forges onward. He said he would be OK with his right-hander pitching deep into games so long as he's holding his velocity and checking in frequently with Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland.
Wheeler gave Callaway no reason to worry early on, starting his outing with six scoreless innings. On his 102nd pitch of the night, however, Wheeler surrendered a two-out, two-run home run to Miguel Rojas, ending his scoreless-innings streak at 23 -- it was the longest active streak in the National League.
Wheeler struck out eight, walked one and allowed just four hits. The victory was his fifth consecutive win in as many starts, extending his career-best winning streak -- the Mets have won each of his last six outings.
"He's been throwing the ball over the plate, he's aggressive toward the hitters," Callaway said. "He goes after them like he knows his stuff is better than them, and he's going to make them beat him. That's the key to throwing strikes and not walking guys -- always be the aggressor and know that your stuff is going to get them out."
Wheeler didn't allow a base knock until the fifth inning. A line-drive single to left off the bat of Martin Prado ended his no-hit bid. Similar to the remarks of his manager, the 28-year-old was proud of his ability to go after hitters.
"I've just been attacking the zone hard and trying to get strike one," Wheeler said. "I try to get a quick out after that, whether it's a strikeout or ground ball or whatever it may be. Tight in the zone, strike one and just go from there"
In the seventh, Wheeler started the inning with back-to-back strikeouts. But a two-out baserunner, in the form of a base hit from Rafael Ortega, set up Rojas. Wheeler left an 1-0 fastball right over the heart of the plate, and the Marlins' shortstop connected, sending it over the wall in left.
Wheeler's fastball was electric Friday and was still clocking high velocity late in the game. The right-hander threw 108 total pitches, 55 of which were heaters. According to Statcast™, Wheeler had 15 called strikes on fastballs and 13 fastballs were put in play. The only ball in play on Wheeler's fastball that resulted in a hit was Rojas' home run.
Even as the Mets sit outside of playoff contention, Callaway has proven he will ride his starters as long as they are effective. But don't take this as a manager overusing his starter. Wheeler has proven his stamina -- pitching into the seventh inning in 9 of his last 13 outings -- and was dealing with a four-run lead before the homer.
"I just made that mistake to Rojas, I'm pretty sure he was sitting on it," Wheeler recalled. "I'll take that and put it in the memory bank. … I let up the home run, and they scored two runs tonight, but other than that, I did well."
Wheeler still felt good to go in the seventh inning and has yet to think about an innings cap. He's ready to keep pitching.
"I was still good to go. I felt strong," Wheeler explained. "This time of year, you want to keep it going, keep the ball in your hand. … It's their call, but I'm feeling good right now. I don't think there's really any need to limit my innings at this point. If something happens, I'll speak up, but right now I feel good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ahead 1-0 in the sixth, the Mets broke the game open with a three-run inning. Michael Conforto -- who had an RBI single in the third -- walked to lead off the frame. After reaching second on a fielder's choice, Conforto moved to third on Todd Frazier's sharp single down the third-base line.
With runners on the corners, Austin Jackson delivered, squeaking a base hit up the middle, off the glove of Jose Urena. Statcast™ gave Jackson's single a hit probability of just 27 percent.
That was the end of Urena's night. The Mets notched eight hits and pushed across four runs on the Marlins' starter, enough to give them a comfortable lead for the late innings.
A few batters later, to cap off the frame, Amed Rosario plated both Frazier and Jackson with a line drive off the glove of Starlin Castro.
Since being signed on July 27, the veteran outfielder Jackson has been scorching hot.
Jackson entered play Friday hitting an astounding .452 since the day he joined the Mets -- that's second in the National League to only David Peralta (.514).
On Friday, Jackson went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, the third time in his last four games he has registered three hits. He has now collected at least one RBI in five straight games and has recorded six multi-hit games since joining the club.
"I've seen him do it before so I'm not that surprised," Callaway said on Jackson's performance. "We've talked about it many times, he has a great approach. He drives the ball to right-center like we saw with that one double, and he stays on the ball.
"When they make a mistake with the breaking ball, he's able to pull it; when they throw a pitch over the plate, he's able to keep his hands inside the ball and drive it the other way. I know his approach is really good, and he's done a great job since he's been here."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the third inning, with Wheeler dealing and still no hits on the board for Miami, Conforto saved the right-hander's no-hit bid.
Magneuris Sierra slashed a liner to left, tailing away from Conforto. According to Statcast™, Conforto traveled 48 feet in 3.4 seconds -- enough to earn him a four-star catch -- as he snagged the ball before it hit the grass.
Sierra hit the ball at 82.1 mph, and his line drive had a hit probability of 73 percent. Conforto made the play, despite a 45-percent catch probability.
HE SAID IT
"It was really good, I thought he stayed on the ball really well. Same thing we were talking about with Jackson -- he kept his hands inside the ball really well and hit the ball back up the middle, stayed on top of it. I thought his swing was short and quick, and I like to continue using him in that leadoff spot. I think it's good for him" -- Callaway, on Rosario's performance and his bat in the leadoff spot
Rookie Corey Oswalt (1-2, 5.13 ERA) takes the ball in the second game of the Mets' series against the Marlins on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Marlins Park. In his last start in Miami, on June 29, the right-hander lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up six runs on six hits. Oswalt goes up against Miami's Dan Straily (4-5, 4.35).
Max Goodman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @Max_Goodman97.