Mostly. I stayed at work slightly later than I would have intended. My normal, 6pm departure leaves me with plenty of time to get home (or to Citi Field) for a 7:10pm start time. Tuesday, I didn't leave work until about 6:45, making my getting home in time for the start of the game an impossibility. Wisely, though, I'd anticipated a late departure and set the DVR to record the game. So, although I got home at 7:30, I was able to pick things up from the top and catch up from there.
I fast forwarded through the Mets half of the first inning, because a) They weren't going to score anyway and b) Who cares, I just wanted to see Wheeler. Perhaps the first time I'd ever simply eschewed a Mets turn at bat. But, such were the circumstances.
I wasn't expecting Wheeler to debut with the same panache as Matt Harvey did last year. Harvey is his own beast, someone of a different level of intensity and mental makeup than Wheeler. But, what Wheeler does have is the stuff to match Harvey's fire. We knew this coming in, even though we might not have actually seen it. It's been hyped up enough. Basically, this is all a long-winded way of saying that Wheeler had an understandably jittery first inning, walking a pair of batters while at the same time pouring in his fastball rather effortlessly at 95-97mph. Though there may have been nerves, Wheeler showed his toughness by not allowing it to get the better of him. His fastball, which appears to have incredibly filthy bite to it, was moving all over the place early. But he used it to his advantage. After walking Andrelton
Wheeler settled down and only got better from there. Come the second inning, he'd found his sea legs and got his command under control. The fastball that was sailing all over the place was now zipping over the plate and past Atlanta bats. A Dan Uggla double was the only blemish on what should be the first of many 3 strikeout innings for Wheeler. The 3rd inning was a mirror image of the 1st, except that when he walked Freeman, it actually looked like Wheeler was giving him an unintentional pass as opposed to just looking wild. Again, no harm, no foul. In fact, Wheeler got quite comfortable from there, allowing a pair of harmless singles in the 4th and 5th that went nowhere.
But it was his final inning, the 6th, where Wheeler really showed his mettle. Although nobody would have argued if Wheeler was pulled after 5 innings, Collins sent him back out for the 6th, where he allowed 4th hit, a single to Cheech Upton and followed it up with his 5th walk, to Brian McCann. This would be a good test. Wheeler kept his cool, working him over for his 7th strikeout and following that up by retiring Chris Johnson on a popup to finish off 6 shutout innings, and a debut that, much like Matt Harvey's debut last year, lived up to the lofty hype.
But, unfortunately, Wheeler was also getting a taste of what being a Met is like at the moment. For all the work he'd done to keep the Braves off the scoreboard, the Mets, boasting a mostly B-level lineup littered with names like Josh Satin and Collin Cowgill, couldn't plate a run. Sure, the fine Major League debut was nice, but it certainly would have been typical of the way this season has gone if they couldn't get a win out of it.
Fortuitously, Anthony Recker found a way in the 7th inning to blast a long 2-run Home Run, at a moment where a friend and I were discussing why Recker was catching at all. Questioning Anthony Recker and having him respond with a Home Run has already happened once this year. So, perhaps, we should continue questioning why Anthony Recker is here, and maybe he will respond with more Home Runs. This particular Home Run was helpful because it not only gave the Mets the lead, but also put Wheeler in line for the victory.
It was then up to the Bullpen to protect this 2-0 lead the rest of the way. Brandon Lyon made things unnecessarily hairy in the 7th, but he made it through only allowing 1 run. The Braves then decided to self-destruct in the 8th, replete with Anthony Varvaro throwing away pickoffs and both Upton Brothers looking complacent/lazy/both. Somehow, the string of Marlon Byrd, Josh Satin, Juan Lagares and Omar Quintanilla led to 4 runs scoring, giving the Mets a monumental 6, and I don't mean 6 for the Doubleheader, I mean 6 in this game alone. This was plenty for the Mets to win and come away from their pair of games with a pair of tone-setting wins.
Certainly, when this Doubleheader was scheduled several weeks ago, it could not have been greeted with much pleasantness. The way the Mets had been going, 5 games in Atlanta might as well have been a trip through the 9 circles of Hell. But once it was determined that not only would Zack Wheeler make his debut in this series, but he'd be the back end of Met Futures Day along with Matt Harvey, the mood made a decided turn to optimism. The pieces that we've been waiting for are beginning to show themselves, step by step. Harvey is now establishing himself as a star. Wheeler looks capable of following suit. The results both tantalizing, the Mets, on this date, served notice to the rest of the Major Leagues that they will be hell to deal with once they get an offense.