PITTSBURGH -- As his name continues to be involved in non-waiver Trade Deadline rumors, it remains unclear if Sunday afternoon was the last time Zack Wheeler will pitch for the Mets this season. If it was, the right-hander put on a show for his final act with New York.Wheeler exhibited
PITTSBURGH -- As his name continues to be involved in non-waiver Trade Deadline rumors, it remains unclear if Sunday afternoon was the last time Zack Wheeler will pitch for the Mets this season. If it was, the right-hander put on a show for his final act with New York.
Wheeler exhibited a little bit of everything on Sunday, striking out seven over six scoreless innings and driving in the lone run of the game in the Mets' 1-0 win over the Pirates at PNC Park.
Wheeler -- who is arbitration-eligible in 2019 and set to become a free agent in '20 -- has won each of his past three starts after beginning the season 2-6 through 17 outings and lowered his ERA to 4.11. He's reportedly drawn interest from the Yankees, D-backs, Brewers and Reds leading up to Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Wheeler almost certainly increased his trade value on Sunday, while also making the case for the Mets to retain him for the remainder of the year.
"I want to be here," Wheeler said. "I think we have a good core group of guys. The starting staff is pretty good. I want to be a part of that, and hopefully I can stay here and continue that."
When asked about Wheeler's recent resurgence, Mets manager Mickey Callaway credited "his ability to stand up on the mound and look confident."
"And not only look confident, but go about his business in a confident way," Callaway said. "The way he's attacking hitters now, he knows his stuff's good. He knows he's going to beat them. And that makes for the most effective pitching."
That assertiveness was on display in the first inning. After two quick outs, Wheeler gave up a single to Gregory Polanco and walked Colin Moran to put two runners on. The righty then missed a first-pitch fastball to David Freese, but came back with a pair of four-seamers in the zone that resulted in an inning-ending fly out.
"He attacked the zone. He attacked hitters," catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "Once he got ahead of them, he put them away. He doesn't shy away from anybody."
The Pirates collected two-out singles again in the second and third innings, but both times Wheeler subsequently retired the next batter to end the frame.
Luis Guillorme reached out on a two-out single in the fifth inning, bringing Wheeler to the plate with a chance to provide himself offensive support. He connected on a 1-1 fastball and smoked an RBI double to deep right field to give the Mets the lead.
Clinging to a one-run advantage in the ninth, righty Anthony Swarzak was called on to face the middle of the Pirates lineup. The 32-year-old bookended a lineout with a pair of strikeouts to earn his third save of the season.
Like Wheeler, Swarzak's recent performance indicates the pitcher is trending in the right direction. After giving up seven earned runs over 2 2/3 innings in his first five appearances in July, Swarzak has held opponents scoreless in each of his past three outings while compiling six strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.
"He's another guy that's getting his confidence back," Callaway said. "He's a guy that didn't have Spring Training. He's just at 20 innings right now. He's in a really good spot, and I hope he keeps progressing that way."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Keeping runners off the bases
Seth Lugo gave up a one-out single to Starling Marte in the eighth inning. The swift center fielder attempted to steal second base during the next at-bat, but was nabbed by Plawecki to eliminate the threat. The Pirates challenged the call, but it was confirmed and Pittsburgh didn't put another runner on base for the rest of the game.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Adam Frazier smoked a line drive that appeared to be heading into right field in the fifth inning. The ball never left the infield, however, as first baseman Wilmer Flores leaped to his right and snagged the ball for the second out of the frame.
HE SAID IT
"I had command of my fastball. I was running the fastball in, and offspeed was working well. Split, regular change, and slider. Not so much the curve today, but Plawecki called a good game back there."-- Wheeler, on his performance on Sunday
Steven Matz will take the mound on Tuesday as the Mets end their road trip with a quick two-game set against Washington at Nationals Park at 7:05 p.m ET. Matz ended a three-game losing skid last time out, tying his career-high strikeout total with nine over six innings in a win over the Pirates on Thursday. Tanner Roark will start for the Nats.
Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.