ATLANTA — In the afternoon, Matt Harvey served notice he was still the Mets’ ace. Tuesday night, Zack Wheeler showed why many think he will challenge for that title. Harvey flirted with a no-hitter through six innings in the afternoon, and Wheeler answered with six scoreless innings in his major league debut on the brightest day in what so far has been a lost season for the Mets.
Wheeler scattered four hits, walked five and struck out seven in making his big-league debut at Turner Field, about 40 minutes away from his hometown of Dallas, Ga. He picked up his first big-league win as the Mets completed a sweep of the day-night doubleheader with a 6-1 win over the Braves.
While the bats still struggled and the bullpen was shaky, Tuesday lived up to its billing as a double-dip glimpse into what the Mets hope will be a brighter future.
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In his much anticipated debut, Wheeler doesn’t disappoint.
Harvey took the no-hitter into the seventh for the third time this season before he wore out, and the Mets had to hold on for a rocky finish and 4-3 win in the day game. Harvey got his first win since May 17, striking out a career-high 13.
The Game 2 win marked the first time the Mets (27-40) had won back-to-back games since sweeping the Yankees May 26-30.
With his parents sitting behind home plate, along with former Braves great Chipper Jones, Wheeler stepped into the spotlight that Harvey has embraced and had to shake off some obvious early nerves. He walked his first batter, Andrelton Simmons, on five pitches,. He struck out the next batter, Jason Heyward, but then walked Freddie Freeman, who won Monday’s game with a two-run homer in the ninth. After a conference at the mound with pitching coach Dan Warthen 20 pitches into his big-league career, Wheeler got B.J. Upton to ground into a force at third to get out of the inning.
The first hit Wheeler gave up came in the second, a line-drive double to Dan Uggla. He pitched out of jams with runners in scoring position three times, including in his final inning.
Matt Harvey nearly throws a no-hitter in Game 1 of the doubleheader.
He gave up a one-out single to B.J. Upton and then walked Brian McCann. Facing Uggla for the third time, he got him to strike out swinging on a 90-mph slider. He finished off his night by getting Chris Johnson to pop out to second.
After Wheeler got out of the sixth, he was met in the dugout by Harvey, who seemed to be offering some technical advice.
The rookie would be wise to listen. Harvey had what he felt was his best chance at a no-hitter Tuesday. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on three hits. He dominated the game from the beginning, when he ended the first inning by striking out Heyward with a 100-mph fastball, and struck out seven straight.
Wheeler follows Matt Harvey’s act with a stellar performance of his own.
“It was definitely one of those games, I definitely thought it was possible more than other ones,” Harvey said of the no-hitter. “I was striking out a lot of guys. They weren’t putting the ball in the outfield too often. I think in the back of your mind you think this is possible.”
It was possible until there was confusion on Heyward’s high chopper up the first-base line to lead off the seventh. Lucas Duda, playing in his second straight game at first base, charged the ball, so did Harvey. When the pitcher grabbed it, Duda was next to him and no one was covering first base.
While Duda took full responsibility for the mistake on the play, Terry Collins said the first baseman made the right play. The ball took a strange hop, which threw off both Duda and Harvey.
“I was going to take it with me at first, but it kind of checked up and came back toward home,” Harvey said of the ball. “As soon as that happened, in my mind, I didn’t think I could make the running play at first and tag him.
“Obviously there was some confusion,” Harvey said, “but we won the game, all that matters.”
For the Mets, who were 15 games under .500 entering the day, the win probably did not matter as much as the fact that both Harvey and Wheeler lived up to expectations and kept some hope alive.