By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Zack Wheeler once again zeroed in on the Atlanta Braves.
The Mets rookie beat the NL East leaders for the third time, pitching shutout ball into the seventh inning and sending New York past Atlanta 5-3 Tuesday night.
“I feel pretty comfortable against them,” he said. “Not to bash them, but it was a pretty easy game plan.”
Wheeler improved to 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA against the team with the best record in the majors. He is the only pitcher with three wins over the Braves this year _ there are just four teams that have beaten Atlanta more often this season.
Wheeler (6-2), raised in the Atlanta suburbs, defeated the Braves at Turner Field with six shutout innings in his big league debut in June, then topped them at Citi Field in July.
Now, another victory. All that success against the team he grew up watching is nice for him, he said, but “not so much for our friends back home.”
Marlon Byrd and Ike Davis homered and speedy Eric Young Jr. sparked the Mets, stealing two bases, scoring twice and making a diving catch in left field.
Mets rookie catcher Travis d’Arnaud doubled for his first hit in the majors, ending an 0-for-10 rut.
“It was definitely weighing on me a little bit,” he said.
Coming off a 12-strikeout performance at San Diego, the 23-year-old Wheeler came out zinging fastballs in the upper 90s mph. The righty was one strike away from throwing seven scoreless innings _ instead, he left with the bases loaded and two outs, and reliever Carlos Torres gave up Andrelton Simmons’ three-run double.
Wheeler allowed six hits, struck out five and walked three. He drew a nice ovation when manager Terry Collins pulled him, and walked to the dugout with his head down.
“I wasn’t sure he was going to give me the ball,” Collins said. “It was going to be a wrestling match.”
Byrd’s two-run homer capped a three-run burst in the sixth off Brandon Beachy (2-1). The right-hander pitched a day before the first anniversary of his Tommy John surgery, and made his fifth start since the elbow operation.
“I thought he did fine, I really did,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Just that one inning, gave up three runs.”
Wheeler briskly trotted toward the mound to begin the seventh with a 4-0 lead. He quickly retired the first two batters before Paul Janish doubled and pinch-hitter Joey Terdoslavich walked. Wheeler got ahead of Jason Heyward at 1-2, but wound up walking him to load the bases.
Collins signaled for Torres, and soon the game nearly was tied. Simmons cleared the bases with his double into the left-field corner and kept going to third when shortstop Omar Quintanilla sailed his relay home.
Torres backed up the play and caught the errant toss in the air, yet almost cost himself with a wild toss toward third that second baseman David Murphy alertly tracked down.
Reliever Scott Rice retired Freddie Freeman on a fly ball to protect the 4-3 lead. LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Byrd hit his career-best 21st homer and second in two days. Davis added an insurance run in the eighth with a drive into the top rows of the upper deck in right.
“I’m just glad I can come out and help the team. Hit big homers, not just like selfish homers, ninth inning, down by 10. Getting home runs that help the team win,” Byrd said.
Young reached on Simmons’ throwing error from shortstop to lead off the first, stole second and scored on Davis’ two-out single. Young beat out a clever push bunt toward Simmons to start the sixth and stole his career-high 28th base.
NOTES: Heyward made a sparkling catch in right-center, diving onto the warning track to rob Juan Lagares of extra bases. … Mets rookie C Travis d’Arnaud. … Atlanta LF Justin Upton was a late scratch. He said he felt stiffness around his neck. Evan Gattis took Upton’s place. … Braves LHP Paul Maholm (bruised left wrist) is set to come off the DL and start Thursday night at St. Louis. … Braves LHP Alex Wood (2-2, 2.61) starts Wednesday vs. Mets LHP Jonathon Niese (5-6, 4.25). … Torres is still scheduled to start Friday night at home against Detroit. … Mets All-Star 3B David Wright (strained right hamstring) says he’s still optimistic about playing again this season. He said it would be important “to get back out there and try to finish up strong.” There’s no set timetable for his rehab. … The Mets are 8-7 against Atlanta this year. … Mets closer Bobby Parnell (herniated disk in neck) will undergo therapy and strengthening, and go back to doctor next week. He hasn’t pitched since July and said surgery remains an option. An operation would require four to five months of recovery time, which would get him back for spring training.
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