SAN DIEGO (AP) — In just his 11th big league start, Zack Wheeler joined some pretty good company in the New York Mets’ record book.
How about Nolan Ryan and Pedro Martinez good?
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Wheeler struck out a career-high 12 in six innings, and Marlon Byrd had a two-run double to lead the Mets to a 4-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Thursday night.
With his performance, Wheeler matched those two aces as the only Mets to strike out at least 12 in six innings or less.
“Early in the game Zack was working both sides of the plate real well,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He had great movement on his fastball today and got some balls in the corner. He made some good big pitches. They had to hunt the fastball and he got some good swings on off-speed stuff that was the difference especially his slider.”
Byrd lined a two-out double over a hesitant right-fielder Chris Denorfia’s head in the eighth inning, Mets outfielders saved two runs with outstanding plays and New York snapped a three-game skid.
Mets left-fielder Eric Young Jr. saved a homer by leaping above the wall and knocking the ball back onto the field in the third inning. Center fielder Juan Lagares then threw out a runner at home plate in the fifth.
Byrd doubled off reliever Luke Gregerson (5-7), who had intentionally walked the left-handed hitting Daniel Murphy to pitch to the righty Byrd. Gregerson hit pinch-hitter Mike Baxter with a pitch. Baxter stole second before Murphy was walked.
Denorfia made his first step in on Byrd’s hard-hit ball. He then hesitated and never recovered as the ball sailed over his head.
Scott Atchison (3-1) got the victory by pitching a scoreless seventh inning.
John Buck added his 15th home run, a solo shot off Padres reliever Tim Stauffer in the ninth. It was his first homer in 96 at-bats.
Rookie Gonzalez Germen pitched two scoreless innings for his first career save. He struck out three of the Mets’ 15 Ks Thursday.
Both starting pitchers, Wheeler and the Padres’ Tyson Ross, were outstanding.
Wheeler allowed one run on seven hits. He walked one and threw a career-high 115 pitches, 73 for strikes.
“I was keeping my pitch count low early in the game, but after the third or fourth inning I got a little carried away and tried to strike some people out,” Wheeler said.
Ross also allowed a run. He worked seven innings and yielded five hits. He struck out eight without walking a batter and threw 109 pitches, 74 for strikes.
“He held his stuff for seven innings, all the things you look for,” Black said.
The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth. Murphy singled to left leading off. He went to second on a hit-and-run groundout by Ike Davis. With two outs Josh Satin hit a slow roller that shortstop Ronny Cedeno barehanded and threw to first. The throw appeared to be in time, but first base umpire Brian Knight ruled that first baseman Yonder Alonso had pulled his foot off the bag.
Murphy never stopped running as Alonso thought that he had made the last out and headed for the dugout while Murphy came all the way around to score.
The Padres tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. They loaded the bases on singles by Chase Headley and Denorfia sandwiched around a walk to Alonso. With one out Jaff Decker hit a sacrifice fly to left scoring Headley.
In the third, Rene Rivera hit a ball that was out of park in left field but Young leaped at the wall and the ball his glove and the top of the wall before laning on the outifeld turf. Rivera raced in for a triple.
Wheeler then struck out Ross and Will Venable to strand Rivera at third.
“Whenever I needed to I made the pitches that I had to,” said Wheeler. “I was able to throw off-speed pitches over for strikes and it worked out well for me.
Padres manager Bud Black was impressed with Wheelers.
“A good young arm, good delivery,” Black said. “The ball came out with great velocity. The kid’s got a good arm. I was very impressed with his stuff, his delivery, the way he went through that game.”
In the bottom of the fifth with runners on first and second and two outs, Alonso hit a line drive to center field. Lagares fielded the ball and threw one hopper that catcher John Buck grabbed and just tagged a sliding Ross for the final out of the inning.
Lagares also made a diving catch on Jedd Gyorko’s liner in the eighth with a runner on.
NOTES: Venable extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 with a single in the fifth. … Mets fill-in closer LaTroy Hawkins was not available Thursday after getting his in the groin on a comebacker in Los Angeles on Wednesday. … Padres OF Carlos Quentin, out since July 31, got a second opinion on his right knee Thursday at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles. Results of the tests were unavailable. … Padres C Nick Hundley, who went on paternity leave on Thursday, became a father for the first time when his wife Amy gave birth to a girl earlier in the day. … The Padres called up Chris Robinson from Triple-A Tucson to take Hundley’s place on the roster. … Padres RHP Jason Marquis was moved from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list on. Marquis underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on July 30. … The Mets and Padres continue their four-game series Friday with New York’s RHP Jenrry Mejia (1-3, 2.22 ERA) scheduled to pitch against the Padres RHP Edison Volquez (8-10, 5.80).