We got a glimpse of just how good Tuesday night in Miami when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He lost it, but also impressive was despite the emotions of losing history, he kept his composure enough to minimize the damage to two runs.
In what Wheeler called a learning experience that might have been the most important thing he took from the game. Wheeler also learned pitching to contact, when you’re throwing in the mid-90s is a positive. He showed it isn’t necessary to try to strike out everybody, which spikes his pitch count.
Wheeler has struggled with command, but after six innings he was at 65 pitches. There have been times when he had that many after three innings.
No-hitters, as exciting and a dominant display of pitching as they are, remain flukes with a certain element of luck. Averaging around ten pitches an inning is a sign of complete control.
Through six innings, Wheeler showed what all the fuss has been about. He showed why he was worth the wait.
“I felt smooth with my mechanics,’’ Wheeler told reporters last night. As evidenced by the pitch-tipping episode, that hasn’t always been the case.
“The rhythm was good. Good tempo in between pitches,’’ he continued. “Everything was just clicking well and I was hitting my spots.’’
That’s right; things often get broken up by the unknown. It wasn’t a fluke hit, but a solid drive off a bad pitch. John Buck called for a fastball in, but Wheeler left it out over the plate.
Usually when a pitcher loses a no-hitter, the manager or pitching coach comes out to settle him down, to remind him there’s still a game. Surprisingly, pitching coach Dan Warthen wasn’t sent out after several more hitters, but by that time the shutout was lost and Wheeler was tinkering on disaster.
Wheeler later admitted he lost his concentration.
“I did get a little rushed after that,’’ he said. “I probably let down my guard a little bit, but it was a learning experience.’’
Wheeler composed himself enough to get an inning-ending double play, but he was too spent to go out there for the eighth.
Maybe Wheeler will throw a no-hitter someday. So might Harvey. Then they may not. However, they’ve shown us you have to watch.
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