Zack Wheeler knew he could do it. The Mets' front office and coaching staff knew he could do it. Fans have long been told he could do it, too.
Last week, with a three-hit shutout against the Marlins, Wheeler proved it: He can be dominant. Now the right-hander will try to prove it again, this time against lefty Brad Mills and the Athletics at Citi Field on Wednesday. The contest will wrap up the brief two-game Interleague set before the Mets hit the road again and the A's head to Miami.
What was hands-down the best start of Wheeler's young career was especially refreshing given that it came on the heels of two so-so starts amid a sophomore season that has been full of inconsistencies.
"I know I can do it every time out," Wheeler said Thursday. "I know I have the stuff. Kind of feels good to go out there and do it and be efficient."
On the season, Wheeler owns a 3.93 ERA and 1.32 WHIP while striking out one batter per inning. When he is pitching with an extra day of rest -- like he will be Wednesday due to the off-day Monday -- those numbers jump up to a 6.00 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP in five starts. Wheeler has a 2.34 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in eight starts on regular rest.
Mills will be making his second start for Oakland since the club bought him for $1 from the Brewers earlier this month. His first outing was OK -- he allowed the Red Sox two earned runs in four innings -- but he suspects everything will be a little easier the second time around.
"It's a little more settled down," Mills said. "I've met all of my teammates and everything, and it feels a little more comfortable everywhere else."
The A's are giving Mills every chance to stick in the Major League rotation, an opportunity he's never really had before. He pitched in parts of four big league seasons before last week, but not since his lone July 2012 start. The most consecutive turns through a rotation he's ever received was three, and that came in August 2011 with the Blue Jays.
"It's always been a spot-start here, a guy goes down, or a doubleheader. Never really been part of a rotation," said Mills, who has been with the Blue Jays, Angels, Rangers and Brewers. "This is kind of what I always wanted, to get an opportunity to come up and be a part of the rotation. So I'm very grateful, especially being in a new organization that doesn't have any background or history with me."
Athletics: Melvin suggests 'some sort of penalty' for backswings nicking catchers
Oakland manager Bob Melvin doesn't expect catcher Derek Norris to miss significant time after getting caught by Jonathan Herrera's backswing on Sunday -- Norris and team trainers said he could've started Tuesday -- but Melvin is concerned by the frequency with which catchers are sustaining those types of injuries.
"It's not just him," Melvin said. "You're seeing it more and more. ... You're just seeing more elongated backswings now and follow-throughs. Catchers are getting hit more and more, and it's getting to the point where it's only a few games go by and you see it again. I think at some point in time, you have to look into that for safety measures."
Melvin suggested "maybe some sort of penalty" would help the issue, but didn't get into specifics.
"Maybe an out, I don't know. I really don't, that's not for me to decide. But it is a concern," Melvin said. "When you're talking about somebody getting hit in the head constantly, it becomes a safety issue."
Mets: Duda likely back in lineup Wednesday
Lucas Duda is unequivocally the Mets' starting first baseman, but his numbers against lefties -- .147/.275/.147 with three times as many strikeouts as walks -- are enough for manager Terry Collins to occasionally give pause. On Tuesday, that resulted in Eric Campbell starting at first as New York faced the first of two straight lefties.
Campbell hit .404/.485/.649 against lefties in the Minors this season and was slashing .320/.379/.520 in 29 Major League plate appearances against them entering Tuesday, but Duda will likely be back in there Wednesday.
"It's a little different guy than [Wednesday]," said Collins, comparing a revitalized Scott Kazmir with Mills, a journeyman yet to stick in the bigs. "[Kazmir] has got certainly plus stuff, and even though lefties' numbers are OK against him, I felt the righties would've had a better shot with our particular lineup today than tomorrow."
Campbell finished 1-for-4 with a double and two slick plays at first.
• Following their 10-1 win Tuesday, the Mets are winners of five of their last six games for the first time since June 2. Between then and this stretch, which started with a victory over the Cardinals last Wednesday, New York went 3-10.
• David Wright has recorded an RBI in seven straight games, tying a career high.
• The A's all-time record in Queens is 1-6, including 1-3 at Citi Field.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.