Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 8/15/13
Zack Wheeler is already living up to lofty expectations, though it has only been while pitching on the road. A visit to Petco Park may keep it that way. Wheeler will try to capitalize on the punchless San Diego Padres on Thursday night and help the New York Mets end their recent struggles. One of New York's prized prospects, Wheeler (5-2, 3.63 ERA) is showing flashes of becoming one of the main cogs in a rotation that features young ace Matt Harvey. Wheeler's success, though, is coming almost exclusively on the road, where he's 4-0 with a 2.21 ERA while holding opponents to a .206 batting average over six starts. The 23-year-old right-hander is 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA in four home games. He was superb again at Arizona on Saturday, tossing six scoreless innings before giving up a solo homer and leaving with one out in the seventh of a 4-1 win. He also didn't walk anyone for the first time, and a similar effort may be needed after the Mets (54-64) were swept in a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers following a 5-4, 12-inning loss Wednesday. "I don't know what it is, but it's flowing right now," Wheeler said. "It feels good and allows me to throw downhill." Wheeler may be in for another strong performance in his first meeting with the Padres (54-66), who are among the worst hitting teams in the NL with a .244 average. San Diego has also dropped six of its last eight games, batting .130 with runners in scoring position in that span, and its bullpen has compiled a 7.23 ERA. Their struggles at the plate were on display Wednesday, when they had eight hits - seven singles - in a 4-2 loss at Colorado. Jedd Gyorko has been one of the few offensive bright spots of late, going 6 for 13 with three doubles, two homers and two RBIs in the past four games. The rookie third baseman, though, is 3 for 33 with two homers in his last nine home games. Tyson Ross (3-5, 2.75) will face the Mets for the first time, and he's 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA while limiting opponents to .135 batting in four starts since returning to the rotation. The right-hander pitched well Saturday, limiting Cincinnati to one run and four hits in seven innings of a 3-1 win. Part of his recent success can be attributed to his growing confidence in his changeup. "He pitches aggressively with the fastball, and the slider has been outstanding since he's come back and joined our rotation," manager Bud Black told the team's official website. "But for him, I think the changeup will be critical as a pitch to really complement his other two pitches." Ross has started only twice at Petco Park this season, and both games ended in defeat for the Padres. He's 0-1 while allowing five runs with 17 strikeouts and six walks in 11 1-3 innings. He'll have to contend with Marlon Byrd, who's gone 6 for 14 with two doubles, one homer and three RBIs in the past three games. He had three hits and two RBIs while the Mets took two of three from the Padres at home in the season-opening series from April 1-4. John Buck ripped San Diego by going 6 for 12 with two homers while plating five runs. However, he's coming off an 0-for-4 performance from Wednesday. The Mets haven't dropped four in a row since May 31-June 4.
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