Many people point to Cristian Javier and the Astros’ combined no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series as the turning point in the Phillies defeat. Well, maybe this game against Javier in late April can be a turning point too.
The Phillies finally solved Javier and Zack Wheeler excised some demons of his own in Houston with a 6-1 win. The offense led the way with 8 extra base hits, starting with a Nick Castellanos moonshot in the top of the fourth that traveled 416 feet.
Brandon Marsh then doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch. J.T. Realmuto plated Marsh with a shallow fly ball that Marsh scored on with a perfect slide home. Credit third base coach Dusty Wathan for the aggressive send with two outs.
Kody Clemens added a two-run bomb of his own in the top of the sixth to push the lead to 4-0 before Alec Bohm and Jake Cave added RBI base hits of their own in the bottom of the eighth to give the Phillies even more breathing room. Both Bohm and Cave finished the day with two doubles, with both of Cave’s coming off Javier.
The Phillies have 8 extra-base hits today. They're the only team in the majors this season with 3 games of at least 8 XBH. 16 teams haven't had any.— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) April 29, 2023
Perhaps most importantly, Zack Wheeler got on a roll and finished the game strong, going six shutout innings while allowing three hits and a walk with 7 strikeouts. He commanded his new sweeper well and was able to locate his fastball, generating 9 whiffs on the heater. Wheeler also held his velocity throughout the start, something that has eluded him at times this season.
Things got a bit testy in the fifth when Wheeler hit Martin Maldonado with a pitch with two outs in the inning in a then 2-0 game. Maldonado stared Wheeler down and had some words for him before Realmuto got in between them. The bullpens came out and both benches were warned but no punches were thrown, and order was quickly restored. Perhaps Maldonado thought Wheeler drilled him on purpose after he hit him in Game 6 of the World Series on a pitch it looked like Maldonado leaned into.
Rob Thomson later went out to the mound to talk to his starter with two outs in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on and the bullpen warming, eerily similar to Game 6. This time Wheeler remained in the game despite being at 100 pitches. He proceeded to strike Kyle Tucker out on four pitches, the last being a perfectly located 95 MPH fastball up in the zone that Tucker foul tipped into Realmuto’s glove.
Seranthony Dominguez followed Wheeler and pitched a scoreless seventh inning with two punchouts. Dominguez has now pushed his scoreless streak to six straight appearances. He’s allowed 4 hits and struck out 8 over that span with just one walk.
Andrew Vasquez allowed a home run to Jeremy Peña before retiring Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Tucker in order in the eighth. Yunior Marte pitched the ninth and allowed one hit and collected a strikeout.
Wheeler’s scoreless start followed Aaron Nola’s strong eight innings yesterday. If the Phillies are going to accomplish what they want to this season, they will need their two aces on track. It doesn’t hurt that these two starts came against the team that dashed their hopes last year.