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Rapid Reaction: Braves 3, Mets 2

8/28/2014

NEW YORK -- With even a little help, Zack Wheeler could have beaten the Atlanta Braves Wednesday night.

He didn't get it.

Wheeler, the 24-year-old New York Mets right-hander from Georgia, remained winless against his hometown team this season, despite turning in yet another strong start. Wheeler allowed just two earned runs in seven innings, but Braves starter Julio Teheran was better and the Mets lost 3-2.

The Mets had just three hits against Teheran, and scored only on Wilmer Flores' second-inning home run. They got another run in the eighth inning against Jordan Walden, but with two on and nobody out Lucas Duda grounded into a double play. Then, with the tying run on third base, Andrelton Simmons made a spectacular play on a Travis d'Arnaud ground ball to end the inning and preserve the Braves' lead.

Wheeler lost for the first time in 11 starts since June 30, but it was hard to put too much of the blame for this one on him.

Instead, it was the short-handed Mets lineup (playing for a second straight game without David Wright and Daniel Murphy), and the defense.

Andrelton Simmons ... Wow! If you see one highlight from this game, it has to be Simmons' play to retire d'Arnaud and save the game for the Braves in the eighth. The Braves' shortstop went into left field and made the Jeter jump-throw, but from farther away and with more on it than Derek Jeter ever did.

Wow!

Zack takes the seventh: One knock on Wheeler was that he was a high pitch-count guy who couldn't pitch deep into games. He's obviously learning how to do it.

Wheeler pitched into the seventh inning in just four of his first 16 starts this season. Now he's pitched into the seventh in eight of his past 11 starts.

Wednesday's was as impressive as any of them, because Wheeler needed 61 pitches for just the first three innings, but he was still able to finish seven innings. It was the first time he made it through the seventh since his June 19 complete-game shutout in Miami.

Finally, Flores homers: For all the questions about Wilmer Flores' defense, the 23-year-old infielder has yet to prove he can hit in the major leagues, either. Flores' second-inning home run off Julio Teheran was just his second homer in 155 at-bats, and his first in 104 big league at-bats since June 2.

Before Wednesday, in 25 games since the Mets announced (for the second time this year) that Flores would play regularly, he was hitting .216 with a .504 OPS.

Wheeler owns Upton (one of them): Justin is the Upton brother who hasn't proved to be a colossal waste of money -- except when he faces Zack Wheeler. Upton was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a double-play grounder against Wheeler on Wednesday, making him 0-for-18 with seven strikeouts and two double plays against Wheeler in his career.

B.J., the Upton brother who has flopped in Atlanta, is 3-for-9 career against Wheeler.

What's next: The Mets and Braves close out the three-game series Thursday night at Citi Field. Jonathon Niese (7-9, 3.47) faces Braves left-hander Mike Minor (5-8, 4.09).