Zack Wheeler didn’t need to be spectacular Friday night.
Not much more than an average performance was required out of the New York Mets’ top pitching prospect.
The Las Vegas offense made that possible.
The 51s hit three home runs in defeating the Tacoma Rainiers, 12-5, before an announced crowd of 6,147 at Cheney Stadium.
The game started as a potential pitching clash between highly regarded prospects Wheeler and James Paxton of Tacoma, but the 51s got homers from Andrew Brown, Brandon Hicks and Wilmer Flores to race out to a 9-1 lead en route to their first win over the Rainiers this year.
The Rainiers, who are a Pacific Coast League-best 37-25, remained 2½ games ahead of Colorado Springs in the PCL Pacific Northern Division as the Sky Sox lost to Reno, 3-1.
Las Vegas, which entered the game 0-5 this season against Tacoma, improved to 32-27.
Wheeler, ranked No. 2 among Mets prospects and the seventh prospect overall by MLB.com, gave up four runs on eight hits in 4† innings.
Three of Wheeler’s seven strikeouts were at the expense of Carlos Peguero, who went 0-for-5.
Tacoma’s Dustin Ackley extended his hitting streak to nine games — the longest active streak by a Rainier — with a third-inning single.
Ackley, who has five extra-base hits and seven RBI during the stretch, had three hits, including a run-scoring double in the fifth inning.
Rainiers catcher Mike Zunino went 2-for-4 with an RBI in his first career multiple-hit game at Cheney Stadium.
Paxton was able to battle out of trouble in the third by fanning Brown, who had homered off the left-hander in the second, with the bases loaded.
Unfortunately for Paxton, trouble surfaced again the next inning.
This time, with his pitch count rising, he was unable to prevent the 51s from pushing runners across the plate as Hicks hit a three-run shot to left field to give Las Vegas a 4-1 lead.
The 51s struck for five more runs in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run double by Flores.
Paxton was done after giving up an RBI double to Jamie Hoffmann, and the Rainiers handed the ball over to Forrest Snow with one out.
The pitching change did little to slow the 51s, who added two runs in the sixth and one in the eighth.
Paxton fell to 2-5, giving up nine runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.
The Rainiers and 51s play again Saturday with the first pitch scheduled for
7:05 p.m. Erasmo Ramirez (0-1, 3.18 ERA) gets the start for Tacoma. Las Vegas will counter with Matt Fox (1-1, 4.09).