March 23, 2023

Zack Wheeler throws shutout in series sweep over former team

Photo by Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Zack Wheeler on a mission Sunday, paying a fitting tribute to Roy Halladay with a dominant shutout on the day Halladay’s No. 34 was retired.

Between the pace, the efficiency, the bulldog mentality, and the success, it was difficult to look out at Wheeler on the mound Sunday and not see Halladay.

“To do that on his day, what can you say?” Wheeler said. “Today was his day and I just tried to pitch like him.”

He did. Brandon Nimmo greeted Wheeler with a leadoff double but Wheeler cruised from there with his free-and-easy upper-90s fastball, retiring 22 in a row. The Mets hit one ball out of the infield during that stretch.

The last time a Phillie retired 22 in a row was May 29, 2010 — Roy Halladay’s perfect game.

“On a day that you honor one of the greatest pitchers that I’ve witnessed pitch, he goes out and it was like Roy had his hand on him,” said manager Joe Girardi, who was chocked-up saying it. “He gave a Roy Halladay appearance today.”

It was the second shutout of the season for Wheeler, who led the NL East-leading Phillies to a 3-0 win that finished off a pivotal three-game sweep over the Mets.

The Phillies have won eighth straight, their longest streak in more than a decade. They last won eight in a row from July 29 through August 6 in 2011. Halladay won two of those games.

The Phils set the tone by homering twice in the first inning.

Jean Segura, hit by a pitch on the lip Saturday night, crushed a solo home run to left-center with one out in the bottom of the first inning. 

J.T. Realmuto followed two batters later with an opposite-field solo shot.

Bryce Harper added an opposite-field solo homer of his own in the sixth inning. 

The crowd of 39,186 was loud from start to finish.

The Mets are 2-9 in their last 11 games and now in third place, a half-game behind the Atlanta Braves, who are two back of the Phillies.

You’d better believe Wheeler wanted to contribute to his former team’s skid. It took him only four innings to throw the most 99+ mph pitches he’s had in any career start. He was amped and knew early that he had his best stuff.

“I think I’ll always have that little chip on my shoulder,” he said. “We’re all human.”

On Thursday, the Mets left 15 men on base. On Friday, the Mets went 1-for-16 with men on base. On Saturday, the Mets had two hits and no runs through eight innings. On Sunday, the Mets were two-hit. They had led the NL East for 90 consecutive days until this weekend.

The length the Phillies got from their ace Sunday was important. It was the Phils’ 26th game in 26 days and the bullpen has been strained during the winning streak. Coming into Sunday, closer Ian Kennedy and setup man Archie Bradley had each been used five times in seven days.

At 2 hours and 20 minutes, it was the Phillies’ shortest nine-inning game since June 12, 2019.

The Phils are off Monday for the first time since July 19. Their longest stretch of consecutive games the rest of the season is 13 in a row in late September. Having the next three Mondays off will allow the Phillies to skip the fifth spot in their rotation a couple of times. They’ll do so this week, with Aaron Nola starting Tuesday, Kyle Gibson Wednesday, Ranger Suarez Thursday, and Wheeler Friday. They’ll have to figure out Saturday.

The next two series will be challenging. The Phils have three-game series at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. They do get a break by missing Walker Buehler.

But before the series begins is a day of rest for the 59-53 Phillies, the hottest team in baseball.

And for your enjoyment here’s a bunch of Phillies fan, including me, sweeping the Mets out of Philadelphia.

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