- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Zack Wheeler’s latest trip to his home state was ruined by Jason Heyward and Ervin Santana.

New York scored three runs in the ninth, but the comeback fell short as Wheeler and the Mets fell to Santana and Atlanta 4-3 on Wednesday night.

Wheeler, who was born near Atlanta, won his major league debut at Turner Field on June 18 last season and was 3-0 with a 2.89 in his first three career starts against the Braves.

The fourth try didn’t go as well.

Wheeler (0-2) allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings for the Mets.

“I was aggressive today,” Wheeler said. “That was my goal coming in this year, to be aggressive. Sometimes when you miss on your pitches they take advantage of it, sometimes they don’t and you have a good game.”

Santana allowed only three hits over eight scoreless innings and Jason Heyward homered and drove in two runs for Atlanta.

After trailing 4-0, the Mets almost completed a ninth-inning rally with Santana out of the game.

Jordan Walden walked Eric Young Jr. and gave up a one-out single to David Wright. Craig Kimbrel walked Curtis Granderson to load the bases before striking out Lucas Duda. Juan Lagares drove in two runs with a single, and Travis d’Arnaud added a run-scoring single before Kimbrel fanned Ruben Tejada for his fourth save.

“I’m more frustrated for giving up somebody else’s runs and making it close,” Kimbrel said.

Santana (1-0) was sharp from the start, throwing 28 strikes in his first 29 pitches through three innings. He finished with six strikeouts and no walks. He said he didn’t expect to have such strong command.

“Honestly, no. In the bullpen I was all over the place,” Santana said. “I just stepped over the line and focused and threw strikes.”

Santana signed a $14.1 million, one-year contract with Atlanta after the Braves lost starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow injuries last month. He pitched like he belongs near the top of the rotation as he threw only 88 pitches, 65 for strikes.

Santana’s first 20 pitches were strikes. He threw only one ball in his first three innings.

Mets manager Terry Collins said he could name only one pitcher who threw so many consecutive strikes.

“(Roy) Halladay’s about the only guy I’ve seen,” Collins said. “We chased some balls out of the zone early, which helped (Santana) a little bit.”

Santana threw a no-hitter with the Angels in 2011.

“This is better than a no-hitter,” he said. “When you throw strikes all the time, that means you’re in control of the game.”

Heyward took a 0-for-22 slump into the game and was hitting only .107, with three hits in 28 at-bats. He doubled his hits total with the homer and two singles in his first three at-bats.

Heyward led off the first inning with an 11-pitch at-bat against Wheeler before pulling a 3-2 fastball over the wall in right-center for his second homer.

“It’s a tough way to start the game, going that deep into the count and him hitting a home run, but it was a good at-bat for him,” Wheeler said. “He just came out on top on that one.”

The Braves added three runs off Wheeler in the fifth. Evan Gattis doubled and scored on Heyward’s single to right field. Santana, who slapped a single to right for his fifth career hit, and Heyward scored on Freddie Freeman’s single.

Each team had defensive highlights early in the game.

In the first inning, Lagares raced back to make a leaping catch of Freeman’s drive at the wall, his cleat leaving a rip in the cushion.

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons went to his right to field a grounder by d’Arnaud in the second before slipping, hopping up to one knee and throwing out d’Arnaud at first base, with Freeman stretching for the throw.

An excited Santana pumped his fist, shouted and pointed at Simmons.

Santana celebrated with another fist-pump after Heyward, sprinting toward the right-center gap, ended the sixth by catching Wright’s drive before falling on the warning track.

NOTES: It was the Mets’ first game in which they never led this season. … RHPs Jeruys Familia and Gonzalez Germen combined for three scoreless innings. … Braves RHP David Hale will face Mets RHP Jenry Mejia in the final game of the series on Thursday night.

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