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ATL@NYM: Wheeler fans five for first win at home

Zack Wheeler remains a work in progress.

He's shown flashes of dominance, but he's also shown an inability to retire hitters early in counts consistently or precisely command his fastball as much as he or the Mets would like. The Marlins are Wheeler's next test on Tuesday, as he'll look to continue his evolution into a consistent Major League starter.

Wheeler will also be tasked with helping the Mets continue their momentum after a 6-5 series-opening win on Monday.

After Wheeler's last start, when he gave up four runs (three earned) on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts in six innings against the Braves, Mets catcher John Buck said he can tell Wheeler is learning the details of pitching at the big league level.

For one thing, Buck said Wheeler's starting to understand that hitters at this level are more patient than they are in the Minor Leagues. So if he throws a slider on the corner in the big leagues, more big league hitters will lay off of it, Buck said. It's those smaller aspects of pitching that Wheeler is beginning to understand.

"He's able to slow the game down and see some of those smaller intricacies of pitching," Buck said. "Not just throwing, but pitching."

Of course, Wheeler also has a fastball that can reach the upper-90s. In the first inning against Atlanta, Wheeler threw only fastballs to Justin Upton -- one of the Braves' most dangerous hitters -- and struck him out.

If Wheeler misses location with his fastball, he can throw it hard enough to still get swings and misses. Still, the Mets want Wheeler to continue to command his pitches more consistently. He's most effective when he pounds the strike zone.

Wheeler's season has been one of improvement as he learns to navigate Major League lineups. That'll continue in his first career start against the Marlins.

Meanwhile, Nathan Eovaldi will start for Miami, and he's coming off a very strong start in Colorado. Against the Rockies, Eovaldi allowed three hits with two walks and four strikeouts over six scoreless innings before a long rain delay ended his outing.

"I was trying to get out there, try to get another inning in really quick before they stopped it," Eovaldi said after his last start. "I was hoping it would be a [short delay], but it happened to be like an hour long. It's disappointing, since I was throwing so good, but still pleased with the outing."

That start was especially critical since it came after his worst of the season, when he allowed six runs on 10 hits in four innings against the Brewers.

He's pitched against the Mets four times in his career, all of them last season. Eovaldi is 1-2 with a 3.74 ERA in those outings.

Mets: Niese nearing return
• Jon Niese, who's been on the DL since June 21 with a partially torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, could rejoin the Mets' rotation in mid-August. He'll make two more rehab starts, and if he comes through both of those healthy, he could be back on a Major League mound around the week of Aug. 11.

Niese said he pitched through pain in the first couple of months of the season and it never improved, especially after pitching in cold temperatures in Denver and Minneapolis.

"I didn't feel like I had my dominating stuff," Niese said. "I just felt like each outing was a grind. Eventually it got painful, so I just told myself I had to stop."

• Second baseman Daniel Murphy is hitting .356 over his last 20 games, and has at least one hit in 18 of those games. He also has 19 RBIs in that span.

Marlins: Pierson steps in as new hitting coach
John Pierson worked his first game as Miami's interim hitting coach on Monday, taking over after Tino Martinez resigned amid allegations he was abusive to players.

This is the first time Pierson has ever worked at the Major League level after previously coaching for Minor League or college teams.

"I'm totally excited, and honestly, I'm a little overwhelmed right now," Pierson said. "So many things I'm trying to catch up on right now -- scouting reports and all the stuff we have available to the hitters with the video tape."

Worth noting
With his double in Monday night's game, Giancarlo Stanton has an eight-game hitting streak at home. Over that streak, Stanton is hitting .500 (13-for-26) with four doubles.

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