Zack Wheeler gives the team exactly what it needs … again
This list wouldn't be complete without Zack Wheeler. With a depleted bullpen that was coming off of almost nine innings of work over the previous two days, the Phillies looked to their ace to take them deep into the game.
The Phillies offense wasted no time giving Wheeler a 2-0 lead. And while the 33-year-old tossed a shutdown inning in the bottom half of the frame, he needed 22 pitches to do so, causing some concern that he might be unable to make it deep into the game. The worry was for nothing, though.
After that, he settled in, getting through the second inning on 11 pitches to get back on track with his pitch count.
The man calling the game from behind the plate, Realmuto, also pointed out that Wheeler's approach was to attack the strike zone early, which the team had struggled with the previous game. Of the 28 batters Wheeler faced, 21 of them saw first-pitch strikes. Overall, of his 99 pitches, 69 were strikes.
He was lights-out throughout the outing, striking out eight and only giving up one run on six hits and one walk.
He was able to work his way out of a jam in the bottom of the first inning, stranding two runners on base, including one at third. Then in the sixth inning, he again pitched out of some trouble, after first baseman Christan Walker was left standing on third base as he struck out Pavin Smith and got left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to fly out to end the inning. The only run he surrendered was a solo shot by Thomas in the seventh.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Harper had some high praise for the starting pitcher: "I've played with a lot of good [pitchers], and he's easily top-three. … It's so much fun to watch. I love playing behind him."
Schwarber added: "He's just such a dependable guy that you can rely on, and know that when he's gonna take the ball, that you got a really good chance of winning the baseball game. All we gotta do is go out there and get him some runs."
Sarah Langs of MLB.com pointed out that, through his first 10 postseason starts, Wheeler has the best WHIP (0.73) in any 10-game stretch of starts in postseason history. And that's on top of his career 2.48 ERA in the postseason.
Just how dominant has Wheeler been in his postseason career? Well, as Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia noted, batters are only hitting .164 against him in those 10 games:
In his four postseason starts in 2023, he is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 34 strikeouts and two walks in 26 innings. That excellence was on full display during his second start against the Diamondbacks this series.
When the bullpen was spread thin, and the Phillies were searching for some much-needed momentum after two straight losses, their ace stepped up to the plate and delivered the performance of a lifetime in Game 5.