Yelich, Dietrich lift Marlins, spoil Wheeler return
By Anthony DiComo and Joe Frisaro
NEW YORK -- It had been 925 days since Zack Wheeler last climbed atop a Major League mound, the former top prospect's road back from Tommy John surgery fraught with setbacks and frustration.
Christian Yelich could not have cared less, hitting a two-run homer Friday to spoil Wheeler's return in a 7-2 Marlins win over the Mets at Citi Field. Derek Dietrich added a two-run triple as part of a five-run barrage in four innings against Wheeler, who allowed six hits and a walk, and struck out four.
Far more successful was Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen, who earned the victory with six strong innings, the lone run against him coming on a Curtis Granderson RBI single in the first. Chen also added his first career hit in his 58th plate appearance, a dribbler to shortstop that snapped an 0-for-51 slide.
"It's not what I wanted tonight, but it was good to get back out there in front of the fans," Wheeler said. "I didn't have my best stuff today. I didn't have much control over my off-speed."
Marcell Ozuna finished with three hits for the Marlins, helping ice things in the fifth inning with an RBI single off Josh Smoker. He, Yelich and Dietrich all finished with multi-hit games.
Yoenis Cespedes tacked on his first home run of the season off Nick Wittgren in the eighth, but for the Mets, that solo shot proved far too little, far too late.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Early lead: Though Wheeler looked strong early, striking out two of the first four batters he faced, the Marlins took advantage after he cracked for a one-out walk in the second. The next batter, Ozuna, singled, before Dietrich knocked home both runners with a two-run triple. An Adeiny Hechavarria RBI groundout capped Miami's three-run rally.
Yelich goes yard: Any chance Wheeler had to rebound from his early struggles evaporated when Yelich stepped to the plate with a man on first base and one out in the third inning. The Marlins slugger curled an 88-mph slider just fair, clanging it off the right-field foul pole for a two-run homer. Dating back to last season, it was the fourth straight game at Citi Field with a homer for Yelich, whose blast gave the Marlins a 5-1 lead.
"I couldn't tell if it was going to hang on or not," Yelich said. "I kind of got it out front a little bit. It started a pretty good way fair, and the wind was kind of blowing it. I'm glad it hung on."
"Last year we had a lot of trouble tacking on runs," manager Don Mattingly said. "Tonight we were able to add a couple of more, and make it a better situation for us. We were able to save our back-end [bullpen] guys."
"It was pretty cold. Just the wind, that made it even colder. They've got to deal with it too ... You can't use the weather as an excuse. You just have to go out there, and try to string good at-bats together." -- Yelich on dealing with the chilly, windy elements.
After leaning heavily on their bullpen Friday, the Mets called up an extra reliever immediately following the game. The team selected the contract of right-hander Paul Sewald, one of their final Spring Training cuts, and designated infielder Ty Kelly for assignment. At least temporarily, the Mets will proceed with an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins: Left-hander Adam Conley was announced as Miami's fifth starter late in Spring Training, and he makes his season debut on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Citi Field. The 26-year-old was 8-6 with a 3.85 ERA last year, and has a 1.11 ERA in his career against the Mets.
Mets: The Mets will round out their season-opening rotation when Robert Gsellman makes his starting debut. Gsellman, a National League Rookie of the Year candidate, appeared for an inning of relief on Opening Day.