NEW YORK (AP) — Zack Wheeler lasted just four innings in his return from Tommy John surgery, giving up Derek Dietrich’s go-ahead, two-run triple and Christian Yelich’s two-run homer in the New York Mets’ 7-2 loss to the Miami Marlins on Friday night.
Making his first big league appearance in three years, the 26-year-old Wheeler started strongly and was given a lead when Curtis Granderson singled in a run in the first against Wei-Yin Chen.
Then Wheeler’s adrenaline appeared to dissipate on a raw night with the temperature in the 40s. The Marlins took a 3-1 lead in the second, and Yelich broke open the game in the third when he drove a pitch off the right-field foul pole, his fourth straight game at Citi Field with a home run.
Chen (1-0) reached on an infield single in the fourth, ending an 0-for-51 slump at the start of his career, the fourth-longest for players who debuted in 1900 or later, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Wheeler (0-1) allowed five runs, six hits and one walk with four strikeouts, throwing 54 of 80 pitches for strikes.
He had gone 924 days between starts, losing at Washington on Sept. 25, 2014, in his previous big league outing. The right-hander, among the Mets’ heralded young starters, injured his elbow pitching against Miami in a spring training game the following March 9 and had surgery 16 days later to repair a torn right ulnar collateral ligament.
Wheeler 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. Amped up for his return, he reached 95-98 mph on the radar readings in the first two innings, then dropped to 93-94 mph in the third.
Working on the first base edge of the pitching rubber on a blustery night with food wrappers and napkins blowing across the field, Wheeler worked a 1-2-3 first and retired Giancarlo Stanton leading off the second on a deep fly to left into a 22 mph wind.
He walked Justin Bour, Marcell Ozuna reached on a soft single and Dietrich tripled off the base of the center field wall for a 2-1 lead. Adeiny Hechavarria followed with an RBI groundout.
Yelich homered on an offspeed pitch in the fourth, and Ozuna and Dietrich added RBI singles in the fifth against Josh Smoker.
Chen gave up one run and seven hits in six innings with five strikeouts and one walk. He threw 86 pitches.
Asked before the game how many innings he would let Chin pitch, Marlins manager Don Mattingly responded jokingly: “No more than 12 tonight; no more than 190 pitches.”
With only a few hundred fans remaining, Yoenis Cespedes hit his first home run of the season in the eighth, a drive to left off Nick Wittgren.
A.J. Ellis made Marlins debut behind plate and went 0 for 4 with a walk. J.T. Realmuto was rested after a 7-for-12 start.
Marlins: LHP Jeff Locke (biceps tendinitis) is making progress but is not likely to pitch until May, according to Mattingly. … 3B Martin Prado (right hamstring) will be evaluated next week and could go on a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment.
New York completes the first turn of its rotation Saturday when RHP Robert Gsellman starts against Adam Conley, the third straight left-handed starter to face the Mets.
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