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Zack Wheeler, bullpen solid as Mets coast past Braves

Zack Wheeler of the Mets delivers in the

Zack Wheeler of the Mets delivers in the first inning against the Braves at SunTrust Park on Friday in Atlanta, Ga. Credit: Getty Images/Todd Kirkland

ATLANTA — In a start to a season that has been heavy on late-inning drama, Friday night offered one of the Mets’ rarest commodities: a relatively low-stress win.

It was a 6-2 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park, the Mets’ second there in as many nights, this time with a strong start from Zack Wheeler, plenty of runs early and effective relief pitching late, an unusual combination this season..

The first eight wins for the first-place Mets (9-4) came by an average of 2.4 runs. Six of those eight required a save — five by Edwin Diaz, one by Justin Wilson — and the other two featured four-run Mets leads in the ninth, Diaz finishing them off anyway.

“That was the most stress-free win we’ve had all year,” said a relaxed Mickey Callaway, smiling wide and leaning back in his office chair. “Everybody played a great game, and it was just solid from the get-go.”

The Mets have scored at least six runs in six consecutive games, matching the franchise record, and are averaging 6.23 runs per game, a top-five rate in the majors.

Callaway expects his club to keep that up.

“You can’t really combat what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re scoring in different ways every game, it seems like. I do think it’s sustainable. Maybe not six a game, that’s going to be tough to do. But the way we’re scoring runs, we’ll score more because of that.”

The production came from a new-look lineup, including Jeff McNeil at the top and Brandon Nimmo dropped to eighth.

Atlanta righthander Kyle Wright didn’t last through the fourth, when two-out RBI doubles by Robinson Cano and Michael Conforto chased him. McNeil had a two-run double earlier in the frame and Nimmo hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat in the second inning.

Nimmo finished 3-for-4. He bunted for a single in the fourth and doubled in the eighth. In his past five games, he is 7-for-18 (.389) with five extra-base hits.

“I’ve been the real weakness in the lineup so far, and people have picked me up,” said Nimmo, who upped his average to .205. “I wouldn’t say we fixed everything, but at least I capitalized on some pitches in the zone and that’s more like myself and got myself into good hitter’s counts. I would say that’s a step in the right direction.”

Added Callaway: “He did really need that.”

McNeil (2-for-5) and Dominic Smith (2-for-4, walk) also had multiple hits. Smith is batting .438 in a part-time role, limited to two starts because of rookie Pete Alonso’s red-hot bat.

“You’re resting Alonso, who’s been crushing the ball, and you really don’t lose anything,” Callaway said of Smith. “That’s what happens when you have a good team, your bench guys come off the bench [and produce].”

Wheeler held the Braves to two runs, six hits and three walks in six innings, striking out eight. The Braves scored only on Nick Markakis’ sacrifice fly in the first and Ronald Acuña Jr.’s double in the fifth.

Wheeler credited that rebound from his seven-walk mess against the Nationals last weekend to a video-induced epiphany. To prepare for the Braves, he watched highlights from starts against them last year and realized his delivery looked slower. He got a stopwatch to time himself this season and realized his eyes didn’t deceive him. On Friday, he was more like his 2018 self.

The result: A bit more velocity — including a 100.6-mph fastball in the first inning, the fastest recorded pitch of his career — and improved command.

“I slowed myself down and I was more consistent today,” Wheeler said. “As long as you keep runs off the board, we have a good chance of winning with these guys.”

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