It was not the best of starts for Zack Wheeler on Memorial Day, as he struggled throughout most of the game to find his command and was not exactly helped by his defense much either.
Wheeler lasted merely four innings in his second start back from the DL against Salt Lake – after he looked a little rusty in his last go-around. He allowed four hits, two of which were home runs, and three walks which led to five runs. Only three were earned, however, as Matt Long took Wheeler deep after a fielding error by Brandon Hicks extended the inning in the second. He served up the first home run, which was also a two-run home run, to Kobe Calhoun in the first inning with two outs.
Three walks in four innings is undesirable, but what further compounded the issue is the timing of said walks. He walked Brad Hawpe with two out in the first right before Calhoun took him deep – and walked back to back batters in the third to set up a runner in scoring position with only one out in the third. Salt Lake took advantage of this with an RBI single. Wheeler’s only easy inning during this start was the fourth – where he retired the batters in order. He departed after 80 pitches, but only 41 strikes.
The 51s would go on to win the game, 9-7, on the strength of two home runs from Francisco Pena.
This is purely speculation, but I wonder what happened between the time he was injured and his next start and if it hurt his mechanics somehow after he worked so hard to correct them. He has looked like a different guy between his last two starts – a stark difference from earlier in the year when I actually thought he could be ready for promotion. With the Super 2 date very close to passing, that no longer becomes a concern – instead, we need to make sure he fulfills the original criteria for promotion: stringing together 2-3 solid starts in a row with a low walk rate.