January 29, 2023

Zack Wheeler pitches like an ace, offense delivers in Phillies win

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire

With all the focus swirling around what the Phillies will do at the trade deadline, it’s easy to forget that the biggest push this team could possibly receive would come in-house.

The Phillies need their best players to be their best players over the final two-plus months if they’re going to have a chance to win the very winnable National League East.

On Friday night, the Phils’ big guns delivered in front of 23,546 at Citizens Bank Park.

Zack Wheeler spun a workmanlike beauty.

J.T. Realmuto homered.

Jean Segura had a huge two-run double.

Rhys Hoskins had an important RBI double.

And Bryce Harper ran the bases like the cops were chasing him. 

It all added up to a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in a game the Phillies needed to win.

The win stopped a three-game losing streak and got the Phils back to .500 at 48-48. With a week to go before the trade deadline, the Phils are in second place in the NL East, four games behind the New York Mets. The Braves are a game behind the Phillies. The two teams meet again on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola will start those two games for the Phillies and it sure would help if they could deliver the way Wheeler did Friday night.

Wheeler pitched seven innings and gave up seven hits and just one run. He walked two and struck out eight while throwing 111 pitches.

The right-hander is now 8-5 with a 2.37 ERA in 20 starts this season. Four of those starts have come against the Braves. In 26 2/3 innings, he has given up four earned runs for a 1.35 ERA. He has walked six and struck out 34.

Wheeler was gifted a 1-0 lead when Realmuto homered against lefty Max Fried in the first inning.

Segura broke a 1-1 tie with a clutch two-run double with two outs in the fourth and Hoskins doubled home a run in the seventh.

And then there was Harper. He reached base in his first three plate appearances with a walk, a double, and a single. He stole three bases — second, third and home. His steal of home came on the back end of a double steal with Hoskins in the fifth.

Harper’s steal of home was the second of his career. The first came rather famously against Cole Hamels on May 6, 2012, when he was a member of the Washington Nationals.

Only four Phillies in the last 60 years have stolen second, third and home in the same game: Harper, Jayson Werth in 2009, Pete Rose in 1980, and Larry Bowa in 1970.

Archie Bradley and Ranger Suarez finished the night with scoreless work in the eighth and ninth innings.

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