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Wheel Appeal: Phillies 2, Braves 1

Zack Wheeler dominates over eight scoreless innings

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves
A true gem of an outing for Zack Wheeler
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This was Zack Wheeler’s show.

It was the Georgia native’s 25th career appearance against the Atlanta Braves. He came into the game with a record of 10-7, striking out 152 batters over the first 24 games. His performance so far this season has been somewhat uneven. Against the Red Sox on May 5th, he gave up five runs (four earned) over 5.1 innings. In his next outing against Toronto he went 7.0 full innings, allowing three hits and was tagged for only a single run.

Today, he looked like the aces of days gone by. Eight innings, three hits, twelve strikeouts. No runs.

Alec Bohm said of him, “He’s just a horse.”

For the Braves, Charlie Morton, at 39 years old, has had a respectable showing so far this season. Coming into the game today, of the nine games he started this season he’s given up more than two runs only three times. Earlier this month against the Rangers he posted 6.2 scoreless innings in which he struck out ten and walked only one.

Yet today he lasted only 5.1 innings before Brian Snitker walked out to the mound and took the ball from him. The Phillies tagged Morton for two earned runs over seven hits and four walks.

Through struggles with starting pitchers, scoring runners, and poor defense, the Phillies occasionally allow glimpses of their potential. So it was on Friday night when they moved runners, stole bases, took advantage of Atlanta’s mistakes, and pitched deep enough not to overtax the bullpen. We witnessed it again today, despite stranding eight runners and squandering opportunities to give Wheeler more than a razor’s edge of a cushion to work from.

Still, when Eddie Rosario went down swinging for the third out in the bottom of the ninth, it was the Phillies whose heads were held high in victory.

The first hit of the game came off Bryson Stott in the top of the third. Trea Turner came to the plate and hit a line drive off the first pitch to him. Stott flew from first to third in a welcome display of aggressiveness on the bases. Turner stole second unchallenged. Harper worked a seven pitch at-bat for a walk to load the bases with two outs. There the action would end as Nick Castellanos went down swinging, and the Phillies walked back to the visitor’s dugout with three left stranded.

In the fourth, Sean Murphy got a piece of a sinker and sent it into left field for a double. Marcell Ozuna hit a hard ground ball down the third baseline that Alec Bohm leapt for and snagged, then while still laying on the ground threw to Clemens at first to beat the runner and record the second out. Eddie Rosario popped up behind the plate and J.T. Realmuto threw aside his mask and made the catch to end the threat.

The duel between Wheeler and Morton left both teams scoreless until the top of the fifth inning when Brandon Marsh led off with a single. Kody Clemens turned on a curveball that stayed on the fair side of the first baseline and then bounced into foul territory in right field. Marsh bolted from first and rounded third where he would hold up. Stott followed with a sacrifice fly that allowed Marsh to tag from third and score the game’s first run. Clemens tagged from second and beat the throw from Eddie Rosario to safely reach third. Trea Turner, who for the second game in a row has looked more comfortable in the box, roped a 4-seam fastball to right field for a double, allowing Clemens to score. Believing that intentionally walking Harper is the better part of valor, the Braves opted to take their chances against Castellanos instead. It paid off for them when he struck out swinging. With two outs, Kyle Schwarber came to the plate and walked on four pitches to load the bases for a second time this afternoon. The inning ended when Realmuto popped out to shallow center. But the Phillies were on the board with two runs, and that’s all they would need today.

Bohm singled off a first pitch changeup to start the sixth. After Marsh struck out, Clemens singled to centerfield for his second hit of the afternoon, which marked the end of Charlie Morton’s day. Brian Snitker yanked his starter and replaced him with A.J. Minter.

After Bryce Harper struck out looking at a fastball down in the zone, Castellanos drove a ball to the centerfield wall and slid into second just ahead of the throw. Schwarber walked on six pitches, his second free pass of the day. But J.T. struck out swinging and Bohm flied out to end the inning leaving two more stranded.

After eight spectacular innings of work, Zack Wheel watched the rest of the game from the dugout. Craig Kimbrel took the ball in the bottom of the ninth to close the game. The Braves would see their only run of the day when Sean Murphy hit a home run off a 96 MPH fastball. Kimbrel proceeded to strike out Ozuna and Rosario to notch his 401st career save.

Wheeler’s performance today and Walker’s outing last night gives hope that at least some of the starting pitching is finally finding their feet. The offense again showed discipline at the plate and aggressiveness on the bases.

We need to see more of these Phillies on a regular basis.

Up Next

The Phillies and Braves are scheduled to wrap up the series tomorrow evening at 7:10 PM. The game will air on ESPN. Dylan Covey, a 31-year old California native who was recently claimed off waivers and had a solid showing in his first appearance with the Phillies, will start opposite Spencer Strider, pitching phenom and owner of the most baseball mustache in baseball.

Observations from Left Field

  • Blooper, the Braves’ mascot, was revealed on Friday to be Brian Snitker, the Braves’ manager. The Braves organization decided it was more cost efficient to have Snitker serve in both roles instead of allocating funds toward a costume for a mascot.
  • Even though Atlanta is our division rival, and they now wear those unsightly yellow ads on their sleeve, we here at The Good Phight will absolutely not tolerate or condone anyone referring to the Braves as the ‘Quickcrete Creeps’.

How will the Phillies hit Miami’s Bullpen?

Rise and Phight: 10/2/2023

Bring on Tuesday: Phillies 9, Mets 1