Phillies ace Zack Wheeler shines in the first postseason start of his career.
Although the ninth-inning rally by the offense ultimately won the game, Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler threw an absolute gem in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series on Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Wheeler kept the Phillies in the game by pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings, inducing seven swinging strikes and striking out four. He was unhittable in a performance that was not even his most dominant in red pinstripes.
For someone who had never pitched in a postseason game, Wheeler looked as if he had done it dozens of times. He stayed composed and even got out of a sixth-inning jam — highlighted by getting future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols to ground into a double play.
Wheeler has now pitched 20 1/3 innings against the Cardinals this season, and he has not allowed a single run to cross the plate.
If anyone had questions about the Phillies’ gamble to sign the once-injury-riddled Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal in 2019, any doubts have vanished into thin air. Wheeler has since recorded a 2.82 ERA in 69 starts and 437 1/3 innings pitched — which includes a 2021 season in which he was second in Cy Young voting.
Wheeler is the first Phillies pitcher since the late Roy Halladay to pitch to a sub-3.00 ERA in three consecutive seasons.
Game 2 starter Aaron Nola has been a very solid pitcher for the Phillies during his tenure, but has had his ups and downs. Wheeler, on the other hand, has not given fans any doubt since his arrival.
The 32-year-old Wheeler isn’t exactly a “spring chicken,” but he is expected to perform at an elite level for the two years remaining on his contract. The velocity is still there and he has shown nothing that would suggest a downward trend.
Now that Wheeler has performed well when Philadelphia needed him the most, he has proven that he is truly an ace. He brought his “A-game” against the Cardinals — topping out at speeds of 99 miles per hour. For reference, his average fastball in the 2022 regular season was 96.1.
After missing one month with right forearm tendinitis, Wheeler has allowed only one run in the four starts he has pitched since.