NEW YORK -- Zack Wheeler had the nickname Wheels on the back of his special Players' Weekend jersey. It fit considering his last name and the fact that he had been rolling, carrying the second six-game winning streak of his career into Saturday's start against the Nationals at Citi Field.
"He's more confident than he's ever been," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said before Wheeler made it a career-high seven straight wins, claiming a 3-0 victory, New York's second in a row by that score against Washington. "He's obviously executing pitches better than he ever has."
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Wheeler didn't dominate, but he kept on executing. He yielded just six singles, including only three that reached the outfield, and stranded eight runners over seven innings.
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The 28-year-old righty fanned four, walked three and hit one on the way to rising to 9-6 and lowering his ERA to 3.46. He's unbeaten in his last 11 starts, matching the longest active streak in the Majors. He also recorded his 500th career strikeout.
"I didn't have the best command today, but I was able to get through it and just figure out ways to get the out," Wheeler said. "I still have the confidence out there, and I still feel like I can make my pitch when I need to."
Not only is his confidence running high, but the Mets' confidence in him is running even higher.
"We feel like [Jacob] deGrom is on the mound or [Noah] Syndergaard is on the mound," Callaway said after the game. "He's in that category now where you wake in the morning and go, 'Yeah, we've got Wheeler today. It's going to be a good game.'"
Three relievers finished off a combined seven-hitter, nailing down the 58-71 Mets' fourth win in the last five games, sixth win in the past eight games and 14th win in the past 22 games.
"I think the guys know that we're better than we should've been in the past, and we're starting to play like a team that's more capable," Callaway said. "It's fun that nobody's ever lost their enthusiasm."
The disappointing Nats' third straight shutout loss dropped them to 64-66. The Mets lead the season series, 8-6. New York hasn't won it since 2015.
"We know it's the Nationals," Callaway said. "We know that we had our struggles against them. You can feel it. There's a lot of energy."
Amed Rosario (El Nino) sent up a solo homer to left-center off Tanner Roark (T-Ro) in the sixth. Roark fell to 8-13 despite allowing just four hits over six innings while striking out seven and walking none.
Todd Frazier (Toddfather) launched his 15th homer to the left-field seats in the seventh against Wander Suero (The Animal). Matt Grace (Gracey) allowed the final run in the eighth when Michael Conforto (Scooter) delivered a two-out single with runners on the corners.
"Our pitching has been doing their job," Frazier said. "Wheeler has been having a hell of a year. We ride their coattails until we need to step up, and guys have been stepping up."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Wheeler faced trouble right off the bat. The Nationals had runners at the corners with two outs in the first thanks to a bunt single and an infield single. But Wheeler got Juan Soto (Juanjo) swinging at a splitter.
Wheeler faced a bigger traffic jam in the third -- bases loaded, one out. But he got Anthony Rendon (Ant) to line to short and Soto to bounce into a force at second.
The Mets' pitching staff is on a nice run. It has its first consecutive shutouts since Aug. 11-12, 2015, against the Rockies. The staff owns 19 straight scoreless innings and has allowed three runs or fewer in eight consecutive games, its longest streak of that nature since it had an eight-game run in July 2015.
The starters have an ERA of 1.40 in the current eight-game streak and have thrown 15 consecutive scoreless innings. The relievers have teamed for a 2.51 ERA in August.
HE SAID IT
"I feel like we can mix and match and we're going to have some good combinations of guys that can get outs in the seventh, eighth and ninth." -- Callaway, on the Mets' closing situation
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Soto singled to center with two outs, no one on and the Nationals down, 2-0, in the eighth. But he tried to stretch it into a double and was called out when he came off the second-base bag and Rosario kept his glove on him. A replay review confirmed the call.
"The problem in that situation is you have to make it 100 percent of the time," Callaway said. "If you get out, you ruin the inning. He was being aggressive, probably at the wrong time. Luckily, he came up off the bag, and we kept the tag. Great job by Rosie to have the awareness to keep the tag on him."
Steven Matz's last start against the Nats didn't go too well. The lefty (who goes by Matzy for Players' Weekend) lasted just two-thirds of an inning and was charged with seven earned runs, eight hits and one walk in Washington on July 31. It was the shortest outing of his career. The Mets fell, 25-4 -- the worst loss in franchise history. Matz and the Mets will hope for better on Sunday, when he'll look to pilot New York to a series sweep opposite Nationals rookie right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (Pizon). First pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. ET.