Mets Game 78: Loss to Nationals
Nationals 13 Mets 2
Mets Game Notes
Wheeler looked great in the first frame, but oh what a difference an inning makes.
The leadoff homer by Adam LaRoche seemed to fluster Wheeler — it took him out of his rhythm and crushed his confidence. Immediately after the blast, Wheeler changed from aggressively pounding the strike zone to nitpicking at the outside corner, causing him to fall behind and be forced into throwing fastballs with too much plate in hitters’ counts.
Additionally, Wheeler made some mechanical changes. First, his hand movement was minimized compared to his first two MLB starts. I’m guessing that was in part to make him more efficient but also with the goal of eliminating the pitch-tipping. That seemed to help somewhat, though not completely. Another tweak I noticed — and not sure it was intentional — was more upper-body rotation. I remember reading a while back that (in the minors) Wheeler was working on staying straight toward the plate, with his shoulder pointed to home, during leg lift. That seemed to be the case in his first MLB start, but in this contest vs. the Nationals, he was turning his front shoulder in and toward 3B / CF during leg lift, which in turn causes the shoulder to fly open prematurely, which in turn can decrease velocity and put more strain on the throwing shoulder. My best guess is Wheeler’s drop in velocity in this game was directly related to the front shoulder issue.
Clearly, Wheeler is a work in progress, rather than the polished, finished product that was Matt Harvey when Harvey was promoted to the big club last year. His mechanics need to be smoothed out, but more importantly, he needs to keep his confidence. Right now, his body language reminds me a bit of what we saw in Bobby Parnell‘s first few years — a look of slight fright and unsure at the slightest hint of adversity. With Parnell, gaining confidence was connected to learning a new pitch. With Wheeler, part of it will be finding and believing in a consistent delivery.
Meanwhile, Gio Gonzalez was stellar, allowing only three hits and two walks in seven innings. Though, it’s much easier to pitch with a four-run lead. He just kept pumping strike after strike at the Mets hitters — 84 of his 119 pitches were strikes (!).
Interesting to see Nats pitchers knock David Wright on his keister in two consecutive games. They’re not doing anything dirty — Wright is crowding the plate and the Nats are throwing inside. Curious to see if other teams adopt a similar philosophy.
Has Eric Young, Jr. cooled off? He’s 3 for his last 18.
In contrast, Josh Satin remains hot. Perhaps he should be moved up in the order, while his swinging a steaming stick?