By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Matt Harvey dominated with a fastball in the mid-90 mph range and uncommon efficiency in his return from major surgery, beating the Atlanta Braves 6-2 Thursday night and giving the New York Mets hope his injury woes are behind him.
Travis d’Arnaud hit a two-run double and Wilmer Flores a two-run homer against Jaime Garcia (0-1), who made his Atlanta debut after eight seasons with St. Louis.
Harvey (1-0) walked off the mound to a standing ovation, far different from his previous appearance on July 4, when he was chased in the fourth inning and stared at the field from the dugout, a white towel draped over his left shoulder, a despondent look on his face.
A year after helping the Mets reach the World Series for the first time since 2000, the 28-year-old right-hander struggled to a 4-10 record with a 4.86 ERA in 2016. He felt numbness in his fingertips against the Marlins and did not pitch again, undergoing surgery July 18 to correct a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome injury caused by the compression of nerves, blood vessels or both in the area between the neck and armpit.
Harvey was 0-4 with a 5.89 ERA in five spring training starts, but he looked like New York’s ace of old against the Braves. His fastball was consistently in the 93-94 mph range _ even reaching 96 mph _ and he needed six pitches to get through the first inning, eight in the second, 10 in the third and 11 in the fourth.
With the Mets in Harvey’s favored blue jerseys for the first time this season, he allowed three hits in 6 2/3 innings, leaving after Matt Kemp’s second solo home run. Harvey threw 55 of 73 pitches for strikes, fanned four and walked none.
Acquired from the Cardinals in a December trade, Garcia (0-1) gave up four runs and six hits in six innings, and both batters he walked score.
D’Arnaud doubled to the left-center gap on a hanging curveball in the fifth for a 2-1 lead and Flores drove a low slider about 3 feet from the left-field foul pole in the sixth. Flores hit .340 with 11 home runs in 100 at-bats against lefties last year.
Garcia became the Braves’ first left-handed starter since Manny Banuelos on Sept. 6, 2015.
Kemp, who also has four doubles this week, homered in the fifth and seventh innings for his 11th multihomer game. Trailing 6-2, Atlanta loaded the bases in the eighth before Fernando Salas struck out Dansby Swanson.
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Mets leadoff hitter Jose Reyes singled in the seventh, ending his 0-for-12 start. Braves leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte reached on a broken-bat infield hit in the eighth, his first hit in 13 at-bats this season.
New York’s win Monday afternoon was seen by 395,117 viewers on SNY, the Mets’ largest television audience for an opener since 2009. Wednesday night’s loss, which featured former Met Bartolo Colon starting for Atlanta, was viewed by 470,329 on SNY, the network’s most-viewed game since the Shea Stadium finale on Sept. 28, 2008.
Brandon Phillips went 0 for 3. He had gotten a hit in all 35 of his previous road games at the Mets, the longest streak in the big leagues since Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals hit in 46 consecutive games at Brooklyn from 1933-37.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard, who left the opener after six innings because of a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, expects to start Sunday. The Mets are giving him an extra day of rest. “They don’t have to amputate it,” quipped Syndergaard, who has been putting a cream on it.
Braves: With poor weather forecast, the Braves flip-flopped their rotation and RHP Mike Foltynewicz (9-5 last year) will start Friday’s series opener at Pittsburgh. RHP R.A. Dickey (10-15 with Toronto) was pushed back to Saturday because the Braves worried his knuckleball might be less effective on a wet night. “It would affect him more I think than I guy like Folty,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Mets: RHP Zack Wheeler is to start Friday’s series opener against Miami, his first big league appearance since Sept. 25, 2014. Wheeler injured his elbow pitching against Miami in a spring training game on March 9, 2015, and had surgery 16 days later to repair a torn right ulnar collateral ligament. He returned last summer and threw 17 pitches over one inning in a rain-shortened start on Aug. 6 for Class A St. Lucie, then complained of elbow discomfort and didn’t pitch again. “Certainly, he’ll (be) amped up,” Collins said. “Emotionally, I’m sure he’ll be nervous.” Wei-Yin Chen is the Marlins’ scheduled starter, the middle of three straight lefties the Mets are to face.
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