NEW YORK -- The long counts caught up to Zack Wheeler on Saturday. An inability to put away the Phillies led to a laborious outing, and Wheeler left the game in the fifth, sooner than both he and the Mets had hoped.
"That was definitely tough," Wheeler said. "I wanted to get through that inning, not just for the win but just to get out of that jam so we didn't have to use the bullpen earlier than we had to."
But for the second consecutive game, the Mets called on their 'pen for extended relief. On a day when Wheeler struggled, giving up two runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings and needing 106 pitches to get that far, New York's relievers held down Philadelphia just enough to preserve a 5-4 win.
Wheeler's outing started with a sign it wasn't going to be easy. Jimmy Rollins turned on his third pitch of the game, sending it over the right-field wall for a home run.
After Rollins homered, Wheeler retired the next three batters. That was the last easy inning he would have.
Wheeler was coming off a dominant three-hit, one-run start in San Francisco in which he had command of his fastball and secondary pitches. On Saturday, though, he couldn't get outs with his secondary pitches -- especially his changeup -- the way he did against the Giants. And since he wasn't pounding the zone with his fastball, the Phillies' hitters battled.
"That's the thing we've got to drive home," manager Terry Collins said. "If he throws strikes, you can get yourself deeper into games, because he's hard to hit. He's got a live arm. When the ball's in the strike zone, it's got good movement."
But Wheeler still managed to get some key outs.
The Phillies had runners at second and third with two outs in the second but couldn't get a run across. They had runners at first and second with one out in the third, but again did not score.
Wheeler's toughest test came in the fifth inning.
After allowing singles to Cole Hamels and Rollins, Wheeler walked Michael Young to load the bases. Chase Utley drove in Hamels with a sacrifice fly, and after retiring Domonic Brown, Wheeler walked Darin Ruf to again load the bases, and his day was done.
"There have been a few times now where I've had to come out of the game early because I'm throwing 20 pitches an inning, falling behind guys and stuff like that," Wheeler said. "That's not going to work."
So with the bases loaded and two out, Collins turned to his bullpen, bringing in Gonzalez Germen, who made his Major League debut on July 12. Displaying plenty of poise in a big spot, Germen struck out Delmon Young to get the Mets out of the inning.
Overall, Germen gave New York 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He didn't allow a hit, and he walked one while striking out three.
"The biggest thing, I think, is strikes," Collins said. "He's throwing over the plate -- throwing all his pitches over the plate, which has really been impressive."
Germen's work was even more important since the Mets couldn't get too much going offensively for most of the game after scoring early.
The Mets scored three runs off Phillies starter Cole Hamels in the first inning, beginning with an RBI single from Marlon Byrd. New York added one in the fifth and another in the seventh for a three-run lead.
The Mets have historically been tough on Hamels at Citi Field.
"They grind out their at-bats on him," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "They make him pitch, and today he was hot. That might have been what they set out to do."
Scott Rice and LaTroy Hawkins followed Germen with 1 2/3 scoreless innings to get the ball to closer Bobby Parnell in the ninth. Parnell gave up a two-run homer to Utley that made it a one-run game, but he retired Ruf to end the game.
Although Germen and the rest of the relievers gave the team exactly what it needed, Collins still had to call on his bullpen too early.
Wheeler's not getting deep into games, and after six starts in the Major Leagues, he knows that needs to change.
"That's a part of my game I'm going to have to fix pretty fast," he said.
Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.