December 10, 2023

Phillies’ offense and defense doesn’t cut it behind Zack Wheeler in loss to Cubs


Photo via Philadelphia Phillies' Twitter

Wednesday night was an example of why you never know what’s gonna happen in the game of baseball. 

A staggering team that had lost 11 games in a row going up against a pitcher who posted a 2.05 ERA and was leading the major leagues in innings and strikeouts. 

A team that had fell from first place in its division to nine games back in less than two weeks against a team that had put up 28 runs on them the previous two nights. 

On paper, the Phillies figured to have the upper hand on the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night. 

But Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, they did not.

The Cubs snapped their awful losing streak with an 8-3 win over the Phillies. 

Phillies’ ace Zack Wheeler, whose next start could come in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, took the loss after he was let down by his defense in the first inning and failed by the bullpen in the sixth.

The loss dropped the Phillies back to two games under .500 with four to play — one more in Chicago and three in Boston — before the All-Star Break. They trail the first-place Mets by 4 1/2 games in the National League East. Zach Eflin gets the ball in Thursday night’s series finale against the Cubs. A win would mean a series victory for the Phillies and that’s still a very very good thing.

Wheeler entered the game with a 1.31 ERA in his previous 11 starts and he had not allowed a run in four of his previous five starts. That run helped him earn a selection to his first All-Star team and his chances of starting that contest sky rocketed when the best pitcher on the planet, Jacob deGrom, announced on Wednesday that he will not participate. 

Wheeler sat and watched as the offense exploded for 28 runs and 27 hits, including eight homers, the previous two nights in Chicago, but he did not get that type of offensive support as Cubs starter Alec Mills held the Phils to five hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

But offense wasn’t the biggest letdown for Wheeler. Shortstop Didi Gregorius committed a fielding error that led to three unearned runs in the first inning. 

The Cubs scored two more runs against Wheeler in the second as they built their lead to 5-0. 

After allowing seven hits in the first two innings — four of them were softly hit — Wheeler strengthened and kept the Phillies in the game. The offense awakened with three runs in the top of the sixth on an RBI double by Bryce Harper and a two-run homer by Andrew McCutchen. Those hits made it a two-run game.

Then the momentum disappeared in the bottom of the inning when Wheeler allowed a leadoff single and a two-out walk. Manager Joe Girardi removed Wheeler at 97 pitches — Wheeler did not look happy with the decision — and his replacement, Connor Brogdon, allowed a single to Joc Pederson and a double to Patrick Wisdom to bring home three runs. 

And that was the ball game. 

Wheeler goes into the All-Star break with an ERA of 2.26.

As well as the right-hander has pitched this season, the Phillies are just 10-8 in his starts. Just good ol’ classic Phillies stuff right here.

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