- First pitch — 4:05 p.m. EST
- Venue — Globe Life Field
- TV — FOX
Zack Wheeler's 2022 Stats:
- 2.82 ERA, 3.10 xERA, 2.89 FIP
- 26.9 K% / 5.6 BB%
- 1.04 WHIP
Last season, Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler likely would have garnered down-ballot Cy Young Award votes if he was not forced to miss nearly all of September due to injury. Across his final 23 turns through the rotation in 2022, he had a 2.31 ERA, 2.78 FIP, and a 0.98 WHIP.
Wheeler was excellent against both right- and left-handed batters, making him immune to any potential lineup-stacking by opposing managers. He limited hard contact better than nearly every other pitcher in the league — ranking in the 94th percentile in average exit velocity — and frequently got opposing batters to chase pitches outside of the strike zone — leading to him ranking in the 74th percentile in strikeout percentage among qualified starters, according to Baseball Savant.
Expect a strong performance from Wheeler on Saturday afternoon.
The Phillies offense looks to stay hot
Despite missing Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins to begin the new campaign, the Phillies scored seven runs on Opening Day. Notably, they scored five runs against Jacob deGrom, sending him to the showers before the end of the fourth inning.
A key for the Phillies' lineup on Saturday will be laying off pitches outside the strike zone. In their season opener, they swung at 39.2 percent of pitches seen outside of the zone, ranking 24th out of 30 teams. Saturday's opposing starter, Nathan Eovaldi, ranked in the 82nd percentile in getting hitters to chase out of the zone last season.
Nathan Eovaldi makes Rangers debut
Eovaldi's 2022 Stats:
- 3.87 ERA, 4.31 xERA, 4.30 FIP
- 22.4 K% / 4.3 BB%
- 1.23 WHIP
In 2022, Nathan Eovaldi threw only 109 1/3 innings for the Boston Red Sox — marking the fifth time in the last six seasons that he threw fewer than 125 innings. Nevertheless, when healthy, Eovaldi has proven to be a reliable pitcher on the mound.
Despite giving up an abundance of hard contact in 2022, Eovaldi ranked near league average in terms of run prevention, with an ERA that was six percent better than the league average pitcher and a FIP that was three percent worse than the league average.
Eovaldi's split finger and curveball make him more effective against left-handed batters than right-handed batters. He will likely have his hands full with Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, and Nick Castellanos in today's matchup.
What to expect from the Rangers offense on Saturday
In 2022, the Rangers ranked 24th in OPS, 17th in ISO, 24th in BB%, and 26th in K% against right-handed pitching. Though this offense managed to plate 11 runs on Opening Day, their approach at the dish exhibited some of the same poor tendencies from last year — swinging at too many pitches outside of the zone and not making contact on a high percentage of pitches inside the zone.
On Saturday, this group will once again face a premier talent on the mound. If the Rangers see less fortuitous luck on balls in play, their output will look far different in game two of this series.
On Thursday, we expected the Phillies bats and bullpen to help them come away with a win. The offense showed up, but the "arm barn" surrendered five runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Manager Rob Thomson will have all his high-leverage relief arms available to cover the latter innings after Wheeler exits the game on Saturday. The Phillies once again have the better starting pitcher, the better bullpen, and the better offense. Expect them to bounce back in this spot.