Wheeler trending up, bats get hot as Phillies take series against Rockies originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
By Phil Sheridan
Every baseball team leaves spring training pretty sure that it’s a good team embarking on a good season. Many of them find out they’re very wrong before the end of April.
The Phillies are more than pretty sure they’re a good team. After going to the World Series and adding Trea Turner to their lineup, they knew they were good with a chance to be special. As they come to the last week in April, that perception is beginning to match the reality.
The Phillies won their third game in a row Sunday, a 9-3 rout of the Colorado Rockies. That’s their first three-game winning streak of the season. They have won three of four and six of nine. After starting the season 0-4, the Phillies are 11-12, just one game under .500.
They aren’t where they want to be, but they’re heading in the right direction.
Sunday’s game looked and felt like what club president Dave Dombrowski and manager Rob Thomson envisioned when they were chatting in the offseason.
Zack Wheeler, their co-ace starting pitcher, pitched like an ace. Well, mostly. Wheeler was scintillating to start the game, striking out seven of the first 10 Rockies he faced. Wheeler pitched six innings, five of them just exactly what his team needs from him.
The fourth? Well, the less said about that the better. Wheeler gave up three singles, walked one batter and hit another. The Rockies briefly took a 3-2 lead without hitting Wheeler especially hard.
“I don’t know what it is,” Wheeler said of his apparent lack of focus in that one inning. He came back and pitched a scoreless fifth and sixth, finishing with 11 strikeouts. It was Wheeler’s 10th game as a Phillie with double-digit strikeouts.
The Rockies swung at and missed 23 of Wheeler’s pitches, a career-high for the veteran right-hander.
“His stuff was really good today,” Thomson said. “That fourth inning took a lot of pitches. But he got it back.”
When Thomson and Dombrowski were plotting the 2023 season, they saw three solid innings from their bullpen. And that’s what they got. Three relievers pitched, each allowing at least one hit. Luis Ortiz loaded the bases in the ninth on two singles and a throwing error by shortstop Trea Turner.
But Ortiz got Jurickson Profar, whose single started Wheeler’s fourth-inning troubles, to fly out to shallow left, then struck out Ryan McMahon to end the game. That was Colorado’s 16th strikeout of the game.
Jose Alvarado struck out two in his eighth-inning performance. Alvarado walked Toronto’s Matt Chapman on Sept. 21 of last year. Since then, Alvarado has not issued a base on balls. He has faced 55 batters and struck out 32 (58.2%) of them. Rockies Ryan McMahon and Alan Trejo both took called third strikes by Alvarado, whose pitches hovered around 98 to 99 mph.
After Wheeler’s rough fourth gave Colorado a 3-2 edge, the Phillies reclaimed the lead by scratching out two runs in the bottom of the inning. Two walks and a single by Nick Castellanos set up a couple of fielder’s choice RBIs, and that was that.
The Phillies tacked on five runs in the seventh and eighth innings courtesy of home runs from Byson Stott and Brandon Marsh. The Phillies scored nine runs on just eight hits.
“Five walks, four home runs,” Thomson said, summing up his offense. “That’s going to lead to some runs.”
Good pitching. Timely hitting. A three-game winning streak. Don’t look now, but the Phillies are finally looking like the good team they expected to be.
“We feel like we’re a good team,” said Stott.
He didn’t get any arguments.