One of the strengths the Phillies thought they could count on heading into 2022 was the starting rotation. Had someone looked at the roster before the season, glancing at the five rotation members would have had someone nodding in agreement if a fan had said “They might have a top 8 rotation in the game!” Prior to tonight’s game, the rotation was ranked 21st in the game with a 4.23 ERA. Each outing has felt like someone was “still going through their spring training” as no one had yet to go over 100 pitches in any game. They badly needed a solid start out of Zack Wheeler to help those numbers and to start getting the group back on track.
They got exactly that from their ace, only, they also faced a starter who had his best stuff.
The game to start didn’t really have all that much happening. There were some hard hit balls by the Phillies, but they consistently found gloves. Wheeler and his counterpart Martin Perez were both outstanding, getting out when needed and relying on their defense a great deal. In a perfect amount of symmetry, both teams had three double plays turned, stellar defense all the way around.
The Phillies almost had a run in the sixth inning when Otto Castellanos’ dad came up and drove a ball to right that was initially called a home run, but was overturned upon review.
Btm 6th - Crew Chief reviews call that Nick Castellanos hits a home run; call overturned, there was spectator interference, no home run. Additionally, the Replay Official ruled that the batter-runner be placed at 2B. Powered by @Mitel. pic.twitter.com/TX2qnRSmpK— MLB Replays (@MLBReplays) May 5, 2022
Castellanos would be stranded at second and the game remained scoreless into the eighth.
In the eighth, there came a move that could have raised an eyebrow when Joe Girardi went to get Wheeler out of the game, only at 78 pitches, in favor of Jose Alvarado. It was a bit head scratching at the time since Wheeler had looked so good and had so few pitches, coupled with the fact that it was Alvarado that was the choice, but it would end a moot point when he retired the next hitter on one pitch. So, crisis averted for the time being.
The game would stay scoreless into extra innings where the new rules kicked in, sending a runner to second to start the inning. Brad Hand was brought on and got two quick outs wrapped around a walk, but had to deal with Brad Miller and his bamboo magic. Unfortunately for Hand, the BABIP gods were on the side of the Rangers as Miller dinked one in front of Castellanos, scoring two and giving Texas the lead.
The Phillies would get one in the bottom of the tenth when Odubel Herrera grounded out to bring in Jean Segura, but that was that for the Phillies. Alec Bohm was called out on a check swing to end the game and run the losing streak to three.
It was a winnable game, one that they need to win when Wheeler pitches like that, but they just couldn’t get that big hit they needed. Wheeler was great, so there is a positive to grab from this game, but still - that’s one they need to win.