NEW YORK (AP) – Trade candidate Zack Wheeler showed off a live arm in his return from the injured list, Jeff McNeil hit the first of four Mets homers and New York beat the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates 6-3 Friday night.
Wheeler (7-6) struck out seven over 5 1/3 innings in his first start since July 7 due to right shoulder fatigue – an issue he called an impingement. With contending teams watching closely, the right-hander averaged 96.8 mph on his fastball and looked sharp until Adam Frazier clocked a two-run homer in the sixth inning. Wheeler allowed three runs, six hits and no walks.
McNeil hit a three-run homer, and Todd Frazier, Pete Alonso and Wilson Ramos added solo shots for the Mets. Alonso’s homer was his 34th.
Pirates rookie starter Dario Agrazal (2-1) got roughed up for the first time in his short big league career, and Pittsburgh dropped its sixth straight. The Pirates are 2-13 since the All-Star break.
With Mets closer Edwin Daz nursing a sore left big toe a day after being hit by a line drive, Seth Lugo pitched the ninth for his first save of the season.
Wheeler, who can become a free agent after the season, expects to be dealt prior to the July 31 deadline and even has his bags packed at home. Manager Mickey Callaway acknowledged that Wheeler faced a “difficult task” tuning out the trade talk, but he expected the 29-year-old to lock in for game time.
He looked sharp early, striking out leadoff hitter Corey Dickerson with a 98.2 mph fastball. Wheeler allowed a run in the second on two soft singles and Colin Moran’s one-hopper that skipped off shortstop Amed Rosario’s glove for an RBI infield single.
Wheeler retired 12 straight before running into trouble in the sixth. Melky Cabrera led off with a single, and Adam Frazier drove a two-run shot to cut New York’s lead to 4-3. Wheeler got an out and allowed a single to Josh Bell before being pulled after 73 pitches.
Mets fans near the home dugout gave Wheeler a standing ovation as he walked off.
Wheeler has experience with the deadline drama. Sunday will mark eight years since he was acquired from the San Francisco Giants for veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran.
McNeil and Ramos each hit their 10th homers. Todd Frazier clubbed his 14th a day after ending a 1-for-18 skid with two hits.
Agrazal was pulled after allowing Alonso’s one-out homer in the sixth. He gave up five runs on three homers, and his ERA rose from 2.25 to 3.24 in his sixth career start.
As promised when he earned $1 million for winning the All-Star Home Run Derby, Alonso delivered checks for $50,000 each to representatives from the Wounded Warriors and Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers foundations before the game.
McNeil video chatted with his wife pregame to ask her permission to bring home a rescued puppy brought to the ballpark by the North Shore Animal League. Discussions were expected to continue through the weekend.
Pirates: Dickerson was pulled in the third with left groin discomfort.
Mets: Daz said he was feeling well and declared himself ready to pitch a day after taking a ball off his left big toe. X-rays were negative, and Daz threw from 90 feet before the game without issue. Callaway said he wanted to speak with the medical staff pregame before deciding whether Daz would be available. … RHP Walker Lockett was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse to make space for Wheeler.
Mets LHP Steven Matz makes his third start since a brief stint in the bullpen. He pitched six innings of two-run ball against San Francisco in his previous outing.