Mets hope Wheeler returns to form vs. Phillies (Jul 01, 2017)

BY AP • July 1, 2017

NEW YORK -- Zack Wheeler almost can't help but pitch better for the New York Mets than he did the last two times he took the mound. The Philadelphia Phillies pretty much have nowhere to go but up after a meager offensive showing on Friday night.

Something will have to give Saturday afternoon, when Wheeler is expected to be activated from the disabled list and start for the Mets in the middle game of a three-game series against the Phillies at Citi Field.

Wheeler (3-5, 5.29 ERA) is scheduled to face the Phillies' Jeremy Hellickson (5-5, 4.40 ERA) in a matchup of right-handers. The Mets won the series opener on Friday, 2-1.

Ace right-hander Jacob deGrom combined with three relievers on the four-hitter as the Mets (37-42) won for the sixth time in seven games. None of those Phillies hits were delivered by the top five batters in Philadelphia's lineup. That quintet combined to go 0-for-19.

"Tough to lose that game," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward. "Not one of our first five hitters got a hit."

On paper, at least, Wheeler presents a potential get-right opportunity for the Phillies (26-52), who have scored two runs or fewer 26 times.

Wheeler, who will have spent the minimum amount of time on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, went on the shelf after allowing 15 runs over just 3 2/3 innings in his two most recent starts on June 13 and June 19.

The hiccups came after Wheeler -- who missed the previous two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery -- posted a 3.45 ERA in his first 11 starts, a stretch in which he emerged as the most reliable member of the Mets' rotation.

"There's no question that, with Zack coming back the way he pitched and as well as he pitched, there had to be a blip someplace," Mets manager Terry Collins said Friday afternoon. "You just don't go two years without throwing a baseball and come back and pitch as well as he's pitched without having some type of wear and tear flare up."

Wheeler tossed two bullpen sessions, including one Thursday, during his stint on the disabled list.

"I think the time off has helped," Collins said. "And we're anxious to get back and see how he's going to be tomorrow."

Hellickson will be looking to snap a seven-start winless streak. He didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start on Sunday, when he gave up one run while striking out a season-high seven over six innings as the Phillies fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2-1, in 11 innings.

Since his last win on May 19, Hellickson is 0-4 with a 5.58 ERA.

Wheeler is 3-1 with a 3.07 ERA in seven career starts against the Phillies.

Hellickson is 2-4 with an 8.21 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets. The ERA is the highest Hellickson has produced against any team he?s opposed more than twice.

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