- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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NEW YORK -- Zack Wheeler calls it an "easy" game plan when facing the Atlanta Braves.
After Wheeler bested them for a third time Tuesday, it would be hard to argue that point.
The New York Mets' rookie has now defeated Atlanta each of the three times he has faced them after pitching the Mets to a 5-3 win over the NL East leaders on Tuesday night at Citi Field. Wheeler threw 6 2/3 innings of three-run ball, giving up just six hits against the team with baseball's best record.
Wheeler, a Georgia native, is now 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA against his hometown team.
"I feel pretty comfortable against them. Really no bash on them, but it's an easy game plan," Wheeler said. "Dan [Warthen] has a good game plan going in -- video and scouting reports and everything -- and Travis [d'Arnaud] did a nice job calling the game. I felt comfortable throwing to him and everything. It went well."
He added: "I guess we play them more often so we see them a little bit more. I've watched them a good bit. I don't know. I've had success against them. Sort of happy about that. Not so much my friends back home, though."
Wheeler made his debut against Atlanta on June 18, and dazzled with six scoreless innings to pick up his first career win. He later bested Atlanta on July 25 at Citi Field, although the Braves tagged him for four runs in the Mets' 7-4 victory.
Wednesday, Wheeler continued his impressive run of late as he breezed through most of the game. Armed with a dynamic fastball, Wheeler mowed down the homer-happy Braves, giving up a lone hit in each of the first five frames, although no runners came around to score.
He ran into trouble in the seventh with the Mets ahead 4-0 and two outs as he allowed a double and back-to-back walks to load the bases. The last walk, on his 114th pitch, came on a slider to Jason Heyward that missed. Wheeler left after that pitch, and all three runners came around to score when Carlos Torres allowed a bases-clearing double to make it 4-3.
"Pretty mad about that last inning," Wheeler said. "Sort of let it get away from me. Sucks."
Mets manager Terry Collins called Wheeler "impressive," and he liked what he saw from Wheeler on his final pitch and the moments after.
Collins said he was impressed by Wheeler trying to put away Heyward on a slider, even though it missed off the plate, and approved of Wheeler not wanting to give his manager the ball. Collins smiled as he said Wheeler may have said some choice words as he left the field.
"I love that stuff," Collins said. "My whole career I've always loved the player, that when a game is over, who comes in and is genuinely upset that either I took him out of the game, or I pinch-hit for him, or something else. I love those guys.
"Zack Wheeler on the mound, I wasn't sure if he was going to give me the ball. It's going to be a wrestling match. I love that stuff. That's what I liked about the days he pitches. He competes."