Phillies-Mets Preview


While a fellow up-and-coming starter has taken the Big Apple by storm, rookie Zack Wheeler is starting to garner some well deserved acclaim, too.

Seeking a third straight win, Wheeler takes the mound opposite Cliff Lee as the New York Mets open a four-game set against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.

After posting a 5.06 ERA in his first three starts, the 23-year-old Wheeler (6-2, 3.49 ERA) has compiled a 5-1 record and a 3.02 ERA in nine outings since the start of July.

"When I first came up, I think I was trying to do a little too much, trying to make guys chase rather than just relying on a good, quality pitch," Wheeler told MLB's official website. "It's starting to work here and I'm trying to continue that."

Still pitching in the shadow of Mets All-Star starter Matt Harvey, Wheeler has gone at least six innings in a season-best three straight starts and has four walks in that span - he averaged 3.1 in his first nine outings.

After striking out a career-high 12 in a 4-1 win at San Diego on Aug. 15, Wheeler allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings to beat Atlanta 5-3 on Tuesday.

"That's what I like about the days he pitches. He competes," manager Terry Collins said. "... I'm very impressed with the way he went about things. The more he pitches, the better he's going to get."

The right-hander also earned high praise from Braves outfielder Jason Heyward.

"'Wild effective' really fits the description of it," Heyward said. "He's just around the plate enough, and his fastball is electric enough with the movement. It's tough to square up."

Wheeler struggled in his only matchup versus Philadelphia (59-71), yielding two runs and seven hits in a season low-tying 4 2-3 innings in a 5-4 win July 20.

Lee (10-6, 3.16), meanwhile, will again try to snap a season-worst four-game losing streak. He's gone winless in his last six starts while getting a combined eight runs of support.

The All-Star left-hander has a 4.62 ERA in that span but pitched well Wednesday, surrendering two runs in seven innings in a 4-3 walkoff win over Colorado.

He mostly had the Mets' number over his career, going 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA in his first nine starts against them, before getting tagged for five runs in six innings of a 5-0 road loss July 21 in the most recent matchup.

Lee could have an easier time Monday against a Mets team that has been outscored 24-5 during a four-game losing streak. New York (58-70) was swept by Detroit over the weekend, falling 11-3 in Sunday's finale.

The Mets failed to get much going aside from rookie Travis d'Arnaud's first career homer.

"Right now we are not swinging the bats very well," Collins said.

The Phillies have won six of eight after taking two of three from Arizona. Roy Halladay returned from the disabled list to throw six strong innings in Sunday's 9-5 victory, giving Philadelphia its second straight series win and third in 11 tries since the All-Star break.

Darin Ruf has paced the offense of late, going 8 for 25 with three homers and six RBIs over the last five games. His nine homers since Aug. 2 lead the NL.