Still here: Wheeler solid as Mets roll past White Sox
CHICAGO (AP) — Zack Wheeler is still a Met, which makes him part of a suddenly dominant starting rotation. A day after the trade deadline passed, the hard-throwing right-hander kept his club on a second-half roll.
“That was probably one of the better games I’ve ever seen him pitch,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Just relaxed, fluid, just executing pitch after pitch. Not overthrowing at all and kept his pitch count down.”
Wilson Ramos also drove in a run as the Mets completed a three-game sweep of the White Sox and won their 13th of 17 overall. New York has its longest winning streak since a nine-game run in early April 2018.
Hoping this recent hot streak turns into a payoff push, the Mets held onto Wheeler, who can become a free agent after the season, and several other trade candidates at Wednesday’s deadline. They bring a strong rotation into the final two months of the season that includes newcomer Marcus Stroman, acquired in a trade with Toronto on Sunday. But New York is still fourth in the NL East and would have to pass half a dozen teams to move into a wild card spot.
With trade rumors swirling, Wheeler had his bags packed and was ready to move on from New York. He said all that didn’t faze him, though, and he’s forging ahead with his team.
“I just go out there every time just trying to win a ballgame and keep zeros on the board and do the best I can,” he said. “We’re winning some ballgames. Pitching’s clicking. Hitting’s clicking. Guys out there in the field made some amazing plays.”
Wheeler’s fastball reached 98 mph as the right-hander struck out seven and walked none in his second start after a 2½-week stint on injured list with shoulder fatigue. Wheeler (8-6) retired the first 11 hitters before José Abreu singled off shortstop Amed Rosario’s glove with two outs in the fourth.
More than Wheeler’s heater was cooking as he kept Chicago’s hitters off-balance.
“I was hitting my spots,” he said. “Slider was working good. Changeup was a lot better today. So when you get all that working, it makes it a lot easier.”
Luis Avilán and Jeurys Familia completed the four-hitter as Chicago dropped its eighth game in nine and fell to 4-16 since the All-Star break.
Rookie Dylan Cease (1-4) allowed four runs, three earned, in seven innings in his fifth and longest start since joining Chicago’s rotation. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out six and was throwing 97 mph as late as the sixth, when New York scored three times to break the game open.
Cease thought the outing was his best so far, although he lost his fourth straight since winning his major league debut on July 3.
“My stuff was good and for the most part it was solid,” Cease said. “For me, I think it was the best I commanded this year There’s a lot of positives out of this one.”
Canó led off the second with a solo shot just over the left-center field wall. It was his first homer since hitting three in a win over the Padres on July 23.
Entering Thursday, Canó was 2 for 30 in seven games since hits outburst against San Diego.
“It felt like a month,” he joked.
Canó’s double to the right field wall with two outs in the sixth drove in Jeff McNeil to make it 2-0. Ramos’ single to right plated Pete Alonso, and Canó scored on an error by catcher Welington Castillo, who couldn’t handle right fielder Leury Garcia’s perfect throw.
The White Sox are the first team to extend protective netting to the foul poles, and McNeil used it to his advantage to catch Eloy Jiménez’s foul fly down the right field line in the fifth.
McNeil ran at full speed toward the sidewall, caught the ball and left his feet as he jumped into the netting. The netting held and McNeil popped back onto the field on his feet.
“The fence is really low, so you don’t want to stop there,” McNeil said. “The best-case scenario is just jump into the net and kind of use it for my protection.”
McNeil said his leap was an instinctive, spur-of-the-moment decision and that he might have jumped into the stands if the netting wasn’t here.
“It would have been unfortunate for whoever’s in the front row,” he said. “I’m going into the stands on that.”
The White Sox optioned 1B A.J. Reed to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. Reed hit .136 with one homer and four RBIs in 14 games after being claimed off waivers from Houston on July 8
White Sox: 3B Yoán Moncada was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hamstring, retroactive to Wednesday. The 24-year-old left Tuesday night’s game after fielding Wilson Ramos’ grounder in the top of the first. … OF Ryan Cordell was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte
Mets: New York travels to Pittsburgh for a three-game series, with Steven Matz (6-6, 4.32 ERA) facing Pittsburgh’s Trevor Williams (3-4, 4.87) on Friday.
White Sox: Iván Nova (6-9, 5.32) takes the mound at Philadelphia against Jason Vargas (6-5, 4.01), who makes his first start since the Phillies acquired him from the Mets on Monday.