Zack Wheeler dominates in all facets against Braves
By Matt Rappa
Although he may be their No. 2 starting pitcher on the depth chart, Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler not only put up numbers that resemble an ace — but also a four-hole slugger — in the team’s 4-0 home victory against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
Zack Wheeler shined both on the mound and at the plate against the Braves.
Facing 22 batters, Wheeler only opposed one batter over the minimum through seven dominant innings — allowing just a single to former Phillies catcher prospect Travis d’Arnaud in the top of the second inning.
Wheeler went on to retire each of his next 17 batters faced, surrendering no walks nor runs while punching out 10 batters — including four of the last five he opposed.
In earning his 49th career winning decision, Wheeler put up his first 10-strikeout game in a Phillies uniform, as well as his first overall since late September 2019 while a member of the New York Mets.
Relievers Archie Bradley and Hector Neris retired their next three batters faced each, meaning Phillies pitching retired 23 straight Braves batters in a row to end the game, which last just 2 hours and 30 minutes. Overall, Phillies pitchers recorded 14 strikeouts in shutout.
At the plate, Wheeler was just as valuable and impactful. In the bottom of the fifth, the veteran helped break up a scoreless game with a two-out RBI single to center — facing former Phillies starter Charlie Morton. The right-hander struck out Alec Bohm and Didi Gregorius to begin the frame, but allowed a single to Jean Segura and struck Roman Quinn with a pitch, setting up Wheeler’s clutch RBI base knock.
Just an inning later, Wheeler shined again at the plate with two outs, this time opposite lefty reliever Sean Newcomb. With Bohm on first (walk) and Gregorius on second (hit by pitch), Wheeler doubled to left to bring home the 2020 National League Rookie of the Year finalist.
The Phillies pitcher matches as a mark last set by a former ace.
Overall, Wheeler went 2-for-3 in the game as a batter — slugging a RBI single, RBI double, and scoring one run on the base paths. He became the first Phillies pitcher with multiple hits and RBI, as well as double digits in strikeouts on the mound, since left-hander Cliff Lee in mid-September 2013.
Wheeler also impressively raised his career batting average seven points in the victory, from .150 to .157. He had more hits (2) than the entire Braves lineup (1).
First baseman Rhys Hoskins produced the other pair of runs in the win, slugging a two-RBI double later on in the fifth after Wheeler kept the inning alive with his two-out, RBI single.
The Phillies are now 2-0 on the season. They will turn to No. 3 starter Zach Eflin on Easter Sunday in search of the series sweep against their division-rivals.