WASHINGTON — Zack Wheeler learned a lesson Sunday in the Mets’ 6-5 loss to the Nationals.
He vowed he will not make the same mistake again.
“I just think I got a little fastball happy,’’ Wheeler said.
In the third inning, after the Mets had taken a 1-0 lead, Victor Robles led off with a double down the left-field line and Adam Eaton followed with a single to center field.
Then on the first pitch to shortstop Trea Turner, a fastball, Turner turned on it and sent a rocket into the left-field seats, an estimated 440-foot blast.
Remember who the Nationals hitting coach is?
It’s former Mets’ hitting coach Kevin Long, and Wheeler said he believes Long had his hitters looking fastball early in the count that inning. It’s interesting to note too that when Turner drove a 94 mph poorly ocated fastball over the left-field wall for a walk-off home run in the ninth inning against lefty reliever Justin Wilson, Long was the first coach to celebrate with Turner at the plate.
“Kevin Long knows me, I’m going to have to change it up next time,’’ Wheeler said.
There are lessons to be learned. Jacob deGrom is the Mets best pitcher and the Cy Young winner because he reads hitters’ swings so well. He is basically his own coach and catcher. Sometimes in the moment, Wheeler, who went 9-1 after the All-Star break last season, gets a little — as he said — fastball happy because his fastball is so good.
Wheeler worked well last season with Devin Mesoraco, who did not make the cut with the Mets. Young Tomas Nido was behind the plate Sunday. Wheeler said this home run was his fault, not the catcher’s.
“Tomas is a really good young catcher,’’ he said.
“I think they just came up that inning looking for fastballs early in the count. That’s really what I’m upset about, not recognizing that earlier, sort of falling into a routine and getting caught. That’s a mental note that you take and you carry it over to the next start after that you start mixing it up a little bit more so I was really frustrated about that.’’
More off-speed. Maybe move hitters off the plate if they are looking for the fastball.
“It was good for the most part,’’ Wheeler said of the five-inning start in which he allowed four runs on six hits, including Turner’s big home run. “I’m just beating myself up right now of falling into that little groove of just fastball happiness and that’s what really got me today. As soon as it happened I recognized it and changed it up from there on. Usually you change it up here and there. I just got stuck. That’s what cost me the game right there, the guys did a nice job coming back.’’