As far as first impressions go, Andrew Heaney’s was about as good as it gets Thursday night for the Marlins.
He made club history, joining Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Chuck Smith, Brad Hand and Adalberto Mendez as the only starting pitchers in Marlins history to pitch at least six innings and allow one earned run or less in their big-league debut.
Unfortunately for Heaney, Zack Wheeler was pitching for the other guys.
Wheeler, 24, turned in his finest performance in a Mets uniform, holding the Marlins to three hits in a 1-0 shutout in front of 20,334 at Marlins Park.
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“One pitch to a really good hitter that he hit for a home run, and that was it,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of Heaney, who went six innings, gave up four hits, one walk and struck out three on 91 pitches.
“Other than that, he executed his pitches. We just didn’t do anything offensively to help him out. That ended up being the difference — one hit.”
Heaney, the top prospect in the Marlins organization and baseball’s best lefty in the minors before being called up Monday, threw a 2-2 fastball over the heart of the plate to David Wright with two outs in the first inning. And Wright, a seven-time All-Star, crushed it, blasting a solo home run to left-center field. The ball caromed off the base of the home run sculpture.
That’s all Wheeler needed to send the Marlins (36-36) back to .500 for the third time since they were last below it on April 30. He faced 28 batters — only one over the minimum.
The Marlins had a leadoff hitter reach base three times against Wheeler, and each time a double play doomed the rally. Pinch-hitter Reed Johnson reached on a single to left in the ninth to extend the game with two outs. But Wheeler got Rafael Furcal to line out to center to end the game.
It was the fourth time this season the Marlins have been shut out and the second time this month after the Rangers’ Yu Darvish blanked them on June 11.
Wheeler, who came in 2-7 with a 4.38 ERA this season, had never pitched beyond the seventh inning in his previous 31 big-league starts. But he is now 1-0 and has surrendered only three runs in 28 innings (0.96 ERA) against the Marlins in four career starts.
“He didn’t miss over the plate much,” said Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was back from his stint on the disabled list and had one of the three Marlins hits. “He was really good with locating his pitches off the plate. You’ve got to tip your cap to a guy who pitched a great game.”
Saltalamacchia thought Heaney pitched great, too.
Heaney, the second-fastest Marlins’ first-round pick to breeze through the minors (38 appearances) and into the majors behind Jose Fernandez, was on cruise control after needing 60 pitches to get through the first three innings. He used only seven pitches to get through the fourth and retired nine of the last 10 hitters he faced.
His first pitch was a 93-mph fastball taken by Eric Young Jr. for a called strike. Young eventually reached on an infield single but was quickly retired on a double play. Wright then blasted his home run.
Heaney opened the second by surrendering his first walk to Curtis Granderson on five pitches. Moments later though, he picked up his first career strikeout, retiring Chris Young on three pitches.
In his first career start, also against the Mets, Fernandez went five innings, giving up three hits and one earned run with a walk and eight strikeouts on 80 pitches.
“I had no expectations coming into it, to be honest,” Heaney said. “Just wanted to pitch well; felt like early on I didn’t know how it would go. I was on the edge with every guy. From that fourth inning on, I got in a little bit of [a] rhythm and got us six.”
Said Mets manager Terry Collins: “He’s exactly what we heard about him. He knows how to pitch. He works both sides of the plate extremely well. Pretty impressive kid.”
Reliever Kevin Gregg pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in his first appearance with the Marlins since signing as a free agent two weeks ago. Gregg, who turns 36 on Friday, didn’t register a fastball quicker than 90 mph. But he was effective.