You could hear the grumbling from all corners of the fanbase.
Heading into the series in New York, they had been made to believe that the Phillies had a real chance to win the division. It wasn’t by accident either. They had won 10 out of 14 and were rolling along quite well, using their play to do the talking.
Then they were embarrassed a bit in New York. And last night at home, they appeared listless, unable to do much of anything against a Braves team that simply looked like they wanted to win more, like they were the ones that should be talked about as the looming threat to the division leader in Queens. So coming into tonight’s game, the fans needed a boost, something to give them a confident reason to believe that the Phillies really are going to stick around as a threat.
Zack Wheeler, the ace of the staff, provided exactly what was needed.
Wheeler pitched tonight like a man who knew that he had to dominate. He knew that his team was searching for a stopper, someone who could staunch a bleeding outfit and help stay within striking distance of the top of the division. He did just that. Had Freddie Freeman not continued his amazing, contact-filled month of July, Wheeler may have throw seven shutout innings.
It started alright for the Phillies when All-Star J.T. Realmuto stepped up against Max Fried and delivered a bomb to open the scoring for the Phillies.
J.T. Realmuto - Philadelphia Phillies (10) Solo. pic.twitter.com/eA2qnuhxLL— MLB HR Tracker (@hr_mlb) July 24, 2021
After Realmuto homered, Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen reached on a walk and a single, Harper stealing third with one out to put runners on the corners. Yet again though, both were stranded and a scoring opportunity was wasted.
Wheeler kept mowing down Atlanta hitters until the third when Ozzie Albies doubled, bringing up Freeman. Now, in case you didn’t hear it on the broadcast, Freeman hasn’t swung and missed yet in July. When Wheeler threw him a cutter in on his hands, Freeman somehow was able to slash it into leftfield in front of McCutchen, scoring Albies and tying the game at one.
In the fourth, Alec Bohm singled, but was forced out at second on a groundball hit by Ronald Torreyes. Luke Williams walked, giving Wheeler a bunt situation that he failed at, making it two outs and runners still on base. Hope was low when their recent track record with runners in scoring position was considered, but Jean Segura somehow hit a ball about 3 inches off the ground down the line for a two-run double that made it 3-1.
Jean Segura with a two run double. Phillies take the lead pic.twitter.com/6ubii1wCf7— Justin Groc (@jgroc) July 24, 2021
The Braves would threaten in the fifth when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Wheeler induced a groundout from Austin Riley, ending that threat as well. In the bottom of that frame, Harper singled, stole second, went to third on a groundball by McCutchen and remained there while Rhys Hoskins walked. Bohm would fly out, making it two down, but on the next batter, Hoskins went for second and was picked off, but the return throw from Albies trying to nab Harper at home was too late, he slid in for third steal of the night and the lead was at 4-1.
Harp wreaking havoc on the basepaths pic.twitter.com/Fp7nBoHC2b— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 24, 2021
In the seventh, Realmuto walked to start things off against Sean Newcomb, but looked as if he would be stranded when Harper and McCutchen were retired, bringing Hoskins to the plate. Luckily, Hoskins ripped a double down the line, Realmuto scored yet again from first and the score was at 5-1.
All the while, Wheeler was cruising along, eventually leaving after seven. Archie Bradley and Ranger Suarez locked things down in the eighth and ninth, giving the Phillies the victory they badly needed. The two teams will lock up again tomorrow at 6:05.
Phillies win. Bryce Harper joined Jayson Werth, Pete Rose, and Larry Bowa as the only Phillies in the last 60 years to steal 2nd, 3rd, and home. Phillies are .500, again.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) July 24, 2021