Remember a few years ago when we as a group were debating who the ace of the staff was? We had been accustomed to seeing Aaron Nola come out and finish in the top three of the Cy Young vote in 2018 and many thought that the Phillies had finally developed a homegrown ace that would stay that good forever. His dropoff in 2019 wasn’t exactly a cliff dive, but most thought he’d bounce back to his former form.
Then the team signed Zack Wheeler.
Since that signing, Wheeler has been nothing short of outstanding, far surpassing Nola as the team’s top arm and cementing himself among the top seven arms in the game as a whole. Tonight, once again, Wheeler showed why even top seven might be falling short in placing him among the games rotation members.
The Phillies as a team needed a win tonight. The way they lost on Sunday afternoon followed by the team wide impotence with the bats last night meant they had to come out fired up and ready to play. In the top of the first inning, they were saved by a head up play by J.T. Realmuto that would set a tone for the rest of the inning. Ha-Seong Kim singled, then went to second on a throwing error by Alec Bohm. Thinking he could even take third, Kim headed there only to be met by a laser beam from Realmuto, who was backing up the play.
The heads-up-ness of the whole thing sparked the team, perhaps no one more than Realmuto. With men on first and second in the bottom of the inning, facing Blake Snell, Realmuto ripped a full count single up the middle to give the Phillies the lead.
In the third inning, Rhys Hoskins stepped to the plate looking to add to the lead against Snell and settled on a fastball that was center cut, launching a ball 107.4 miles an hour off the bat into the left field stands that made the score 2-0, Phillies.
RHYS HOSKINS DESTROYED THIS BALL!!! pic.twitter.com/xtdkqUWCRi— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) May 18, 2022
They added another run in the fourth, getting a two out double from Odubel Herrera that allowed Kyle Schwarber to score from first, chasing Snell from the mound and giving the Phillies what felt like a safe 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, as the Phillies are ripping into Snell, Wheeler just kept cruising along. Putting whatever worry there was about his shoulder to bed, he mowed down the Padres’ lineup with the characteristic precision he did last season. He gave up a leadoff single to Jurickson Profar in the third inning, then carved up the lineup for the next three innings, not allowing a single baserunner until the sixth when he gave up a two-out double to Jake Cronenworth. Setting down the next batter, Wheeler’s night was finished after seven innings. He was outstanding yet again, yielding only four hits, striking out nine and walking nary a batter. A performance the team has come to expect each time he toes the rubber. The bullpen duo of Jose Alvarado and Corey Knebel, under some heat lately, come in and shut the Padres down, giving the Phillies the 3-0 victory.
Anyone questioning who the ace of the team is must not watch the game closely.
Not that it means a whole lot to them what a Phillies website believes, but we can feel pretty confident now calling him “the ace” of the Phillies. He’s done nothing to dissuade us from knowing this is true.