Phillies, Zack Wheeler look to inch closer to Wild Card berth against Cubs

Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Phillies will begin a three-game road series against the Cubs on Tuesday.

The Philadelphia Phillies are set to begin their final road trip of the season Tuesday night, taking on National League home runs leader Kyle Schwarber’s former team — the Chicago Cubs. The series will play an important part in determining how difficult the club’s remaining seven games will be in needing to clinch a Wild Card spot.

Fans will recall that the Cubs swept the Phillies in Philadelphia in the first series after the All-Star break in July. That was one of the more disappointing series of the summer, and interim manager Rob Thomson’s squad will look to get even on the road.

The Phillies will turn to their ace Zack Wheeler in the series opener. Wheeler will make his second start since returning from the injured list with forearm tendinitis. In his first start back last week, the right-hander looked like he was ready to pitch in a postseason race — tossing four scoreless innings while striking out three Toronto Blue Jays batters. He topped out at 98 miles per hour with his fastball.

Wheeler will be opposed by Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman, who has pitched reasonably well of late — sporting a 3.46 ERA over his last seven games.

On Sunday, the Phillies announced that they have swapped Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez in the rotation to get Nola to line up as the Game 2 starter in a potential postseason series. Nola will take the hill on Wednesday and will be opposed by Cubs rookie Hayden Wesneski. In his first four games in the majors, Wesneski has been impressive — striking out 24 hitters in 22 innings with a 2.45 ERA. Nola has had a good September so far and is coming off a solid start against the Atlanta Braves in which he pitched six scoreless innings and struck out eight Braves hitters.

The series finale will see southpaw Ranger Suarez go up against another Cubs rookie, Javier Assad. Assad has shown he can be hit — as he has a 4.28 ERA over his last seven games, six appearing as a starter. Suarez, meanwhile, is coming off a 1-0 win against Atlanta — a game in which he outdueled Braves ace Max Fried.

The Phillies will turn to their top three starters to pick up as much ground as possible in their National League Wild Card race against the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres. They will also look to have the offense put up runs, as Rhys Hoskins heats up and Schwarber finished the last series showing his power is still there.

The Cubs have struggled of late, and the Phillies need to take advantage of playing a team that is out of playoff contention. They will have to be careful not to overlook the Cubs though, especially on the road. It is crucial that the Phillies win the series and take at least two of the three games.

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