Mets free fall continues, swept by Phillies behind Zack Wheeler gem

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
Mets infielder Javier Baez left Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Phillies with injury  — delivering another blow to an offense that can’t seem to buy a run or a clutch hit these days.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

On a day in which Roy Halladay had his number retired by the Phillies, it was only fitting that Zack Wheeler put together another ace-like performance that further cemented his name amongst the National League Cy Young Award favorites this season.

It was all the more fitting that it came against his former team in the Mets.

The Phillies extended their NL East division lead to 2.5 games over the nose-diving Mets with a 3-0 victory at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon; supported by three solo home runs from Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, and Bryce Harper off Mets starter Taijuan Walker.

Wheeler was brilliant while picking up his 10th victory of the season, going the distance in a complete-game shutout while allowing just two hits — both to Brandon Nimmo — with 11 strikeouts and one walk. His 2021 ERA was lowered to 2.42 in the latest display of why the Mets and former general manager Brodie Van Wagenen should have never let him go — especially to a division rival. He also hasn’t yielded a run against the Mets in his last 22 innings of work.

Wheeler yielded a hit against the very first batter he faced when Nimmo smacked a double to lead things off for the Mets. But their inability to take advantage of runners in scoring position began immediately as Wheeler bore down to get Jeff McNeil to line out to second before striking out Pete Alonso coaxing a flyout from Dominic Smith.

It was the start of a streak that saw Wheeler retire 22 consecutive batters that saw the Mets struggling offense hit even lower levels this season. It was the first time a Phillies pitcher retired 22 batters or more in a game since 2010, which just so happened to be Halladay’s perfect game on May 29 of that year.

They were made to pay for it instantly for the early missed opportunity when Segura — the second batter of the day — took Walker out over the left-centerfield wall for a solo shot to put the hosts ahead.

Two batters later, Realmuto took Walker out with an opposite-field home run that just snuck inside the right-field foul pole to double the Phillies’ advantage.

Both pitchers settled into a groove as Walker retired 14 of 16 batters, which paled in comparison to what Wheeler was doing.

Zack Wheeler Mets Phillies
Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws a pitch against the New York Mets during the fifth inning at Citizens Bank Park.Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Things further went wrong for the Mets in the fifth inning when star shortstop Javier Baez, who was acquired at the trade deadline to spark a lifeless team, exited the game due to hip tightness that cropped up while grounding out to second base.

Walker was touched up for his third home run of the afternoon when Harper went opposite-field for his 20th round-tripper of the season to put the Phillies up 3-0 in the sixth. It was his final inning of work, as the rare quality start was a mere consolation prize for a pitcher who had a 12.00 ERA in his previous four starts.

Meanwhile, Pete Alonso’s flyout to the center-field warning track during the sixth inning was the first time since Nimmo’s lead-off double that a ball batted by a Met left the infield.

Wheeler’s retired-batter streak ended at 22 batters in the eighth inning when he yielded a walk with one out to Michael Conforto, but was only a minor blemish as he proceeded to get Jonathan Villar to pop out and James McCann to fly out.

Nimmo slapped a single to center with one out in the ninth, but it was a dull attempt of a feeble Mets comeback attempt as McNeil popped up and Alonso struck out.

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