PHILADELPHIA — So far, Zack Wheeler is matching the market he was able to enjoy. Even after neutralizing one of the industry’s best offenses, however, and even with his former employers down in the dumps, the right-hander passed on the opportunity to boast, exhibiting more discretion than the Mets displayed when they passed on him over the winter.
Backed by his teammates’ bat attack on J.A. Happ, Wheeler halted the Yankees’ seven-game winning streak with a strong, six-inning effort Wednesday, leading his Phillies to an 11-7 victory in the opening game of a Citizens Bank Park doubleheader. The $118 million man has won both of his 2020 starts and sports a 2.08 ERA.
“It was my goal during the down time to be ready to go — seven, eight innings, whatever it may be,” Wheeler said afterward. “Not really be behind.”
He is well ahead, allowing six hits and a pair of walks against two strikeouts as the Yankees picked up three runs, two earned, against him. Most impressively, he escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam, one created in part by a Jean Segura fielding error at shortstop, by inducing Gleyber Torres to hit into a run-scoring double play and retiring Mike Ford on a pop-out to third baseman Phil Gosselin.
Wheeler stressed he would have been perfectly happy going for the complete game, while respecting Joe Girardi’s decision to lift him with an eight-run lead — a perfectly reasonable call at the time that turned hairy when the Yankees scored four runs and forced Girardi to call upon closer Hector Neris.
Drafted sixth overall by the Giants in 2009, Wheeler of course grew up a Met after they traded Carlos Beltran for him in 2011, and saw his hard work pay off last winter with the Phillies’ commitment. At the time, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said, “The projections we had for Zack — both short-term and long-term — didn’t quite match up to the market he was able to enjoy.”
Van Wagenen’s Mets, meanwhile, have just a 5-8 record, their starting pitching a sizable weakness.
Asked by The Post if he had been following his former team, Wheeler said, “No.”
Mets fans surely are following him, though, wondering if he’ll continue to honor the market in which the Mets wouldn’t shop.