The 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 the Mets beat the slumping Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-3, on Friday night.
Wheeler (7-6) struck out seven over five and a third innings in his first start since July 7. He had missed time because of right shoulder fatigue — an issue he called an impingement. With contending teams watching closely, Wheeler averaged 96.8 miles per hour 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.
The Pirates’ rookie starter, Dario Agrazal (2-1), was 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 Diaz 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 before the deadline on Wednesday and even has his bags packed at home. Manager Mickey Callaway acknowledged that Wheeler faced a “difficult task” in tuning out the trade talk, but Callaway expected him to lock in for game time.
He looked sharp early, striking out the leadoff hitter, Corey Dickerson, with a 98.2 m.p.h. fastball. Wheeler allowed a run in the second on two soft singles and a one-hopper from Colin Moran that skipped off shortstop Amed Rosario’s glove for an 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 the Mets’ 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.