ATLANTA -- Mickey Callaway would have liked to have seen Zack Wheeler rise up to the challenge of getting out of a sixth-inning mess in the Mets' 8-2 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.After allowing a leadoff homer to Freddie Freeman to tie the game at 2, Callaway thought
ATLANTA -- Mickey Callaway would have liked to have seen Zack Wheeler rise up to the challenge of getting out of a sixth-inning mess in the Mets' 8-2 loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.
After allowing a leadoff homer to Freddie Freeman to tie the game at 2, Callaway thought Wheeler hadn't lost his effectiveness. When Ender Inciarte blooped an RBI single into shallow left field to give the Braves a one-run lead, Callaway thought Wheeler could get out of the inning with minimal damage. And when the right-hander walked two consecutive Braves batters to load the bases with two outs in the inning, the manager had faith in his starter.
After all, Wheeler's rough outing came only a few days after it seemed as if the right-hander had found a nice groove in the rotation. At a time when the Mets needed solid pitching, Wheeler was as good as he has been all year last Wednesday, when he tossed seven scoreless innings against the Orioles. It was the first time this season Wheeler held a team scoreless.
"I thought that Wheeler deserved to stay out there. It's not like they were killing him all over the ballpark, [it was] a bloop here and a bloop there," Callaway said of Tuesday's outing. "Our starters have been going so good that you want them to try and get out of their own jams if they can."
Wheeler wasn't on the mound during the game's decisive blow. The Mets took out the right-hander in favor of Paul Sewald, who gave up a grand slam to the first batter he faced, Ozzie Albies.
"I was trying to go inside and it leaked over the plate, which has been my problem over the past few weeks," Sewald said. "This one kind of bit us at the worst time possible and ultimately cost us a chance to come back."
Callaway wasn't in the dugout when the decision to pull Wheeler was made. He was in the clubhouse, watching on a TV screen.
Callaway was ejected in the top of the sixth for arguing with home-plate umpire Stu Scheurwater, who called Brandon Nimmo back to the plate after he was hit by a curveball on the elbow pad. Scheurwater said Nimmo leaned into the pitch.
"The ball was in my batter's box," Nimmo said after the game. "I don't have to get out of the way of it. So, yeah, I was surprised by that [call]."
Despite the rough inning, Callaway was encouraged by Wheeler's outing, which included two bloop opposite-field RBI singles by Inciarte.
"That's one of the things you can't control," Callaway said. "You can make the best pitch in the world and if the guy bloops it in, you can't do anything about that. So, it's not about pitch execution or where you are trying to go, it's more about a bloop hit… I thought Wheeler made good pitches all night."
A SHORT-LIVED LEAD
After Callaway was ejected, the Mets loaded the bases after a couple walks and an error by Dansby Swanson on Asdrubal Cabrera's ground ball. With one out, Jay Bruce one-hopped the wall in left-center field for a stand-up, two-run double that gave the Mets their only lead of the night. A lead that was wiped away after the Braves' six-run sixth inning.
The six runs allowed by Wheeler are the most by a Mets starter this season since he gave up six runs to the Blue Jays on May 16.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the second inning, Bruce covered 56 feet in 3.6 seconds to deny a possible Braves run from scoring. With two outs and a runner on second, Braves left fielder Charlie Culberson hit a soft fly ball to right field. Bruce laid out, making the grab that had only a 30-percent catch probability. Statcast™ gave the catch a 4-star rating. This is Bruce's first 4- or 5-star catch in 2018.
HE SAID IT
"I don't think they made the wrong decision, but I felt comfortable out there even though I was tired, I still had my command for the most part, but I ended up walking those two guys. That hurt us in the long run." -- Wheeler, on the decision to be taken out in the sixth
The Mets will take on the Braves for the last time at SunTrust Park this season at 12:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Jacob deGrom is slated to make the start for the Mets to close out the two-game set. deGrom has been lights-out against the Braves at SunTrust Park this season, posting a 0.64 ERA while striking out 18. The Braves will counter with Mike Soroka, who will make his first start since May 12 after being placed on the disabled list.
Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.