After being shut out in game one on Thursday night, the Phillies had notched just eight wins on the season. By Sunday, however, Phillies fans were reminded why the regular season is 162 games long.
Despite Matt Strahm’s strong 11-strikeout outing on Thursday, the Phillies’ offense was unable to rally, resulting in a demotivating 5-0 loss in game one of the four-game set.
Luckily, the Phillies got back on track Friday with a comeback win. Colorado got off to a hot start early on, as Ryan McMahon’s first-inning home run propelled the Rockies to a 3-0 lead. Phillies’ starter Aaron Nola eventually settled down, allowing just one hit in after his first frame. Ultimately, Nola allowed three runs over seven strong innings of work, granting many of the Phillies’ middle relievers a much-needed break.
Down by one in the seventh, Kyle Schwarber tied the game with a solo home run off former Phil Brad Hand, and Edmundo Sosa singled in Phillies’ catcher J.T. Realmuto to push the Phillies ahead by a run an inning later, setting up Craig Kimbrel for his second save of 2023.
“I know I have pretty good defense,” Sosa said via Digeo Ettedgui, the Phillies’ English-Spanish translator. “But people need to know that Edmundo Sosa also has a bat. I’m ready to hit, too.”
The Phillies’ 4-3 win on Saturday was a back-and-forth battle, but home runs from Christian Pache and Nick Castellanos paired with 4.2 clean innings from the bullpen were enough to get the Phillies a win in game three.
Looking to rekindle his 2022 form, Zack Wheeler took the bump in the series finale and looked electric until running into some traffic during the fourth inning. The Rockies posted three runs in the inning and sent eight men to the plate. The Phillies’ 2-0 lead, which was generated by Trea Turner and Kody Clemens’ solo home runs, had been diminished. Battling his control, Wheeler fought through six innings and eventually earned the win thanks to big home runs hit by Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh.
Here are two takeaways from the series…
Marsh’s dominant start to season continues
The aforementioned Brandon Marsh hit ninth for the Phillies on Opening Day; not even one month later, Marsh leads all of baseball in OPS. Ever since his two-hit Opening Day, Brandon Marsh has been nearly unstoppable, making a strong case for the early-season MVP candidate in the National League.
Even though Marsh had just three hits in nine at-bats this series, he reached base eight times and drove in two runs.
For the season, Marsh has a .364 batting average, a .455 on-base percentage, and a 1.213 OPS.
And it’s not just hit in-game stat lines that show his massive improvements.
Marsh ranks in the top 70th percentile in average exit velocity (77), barrel percentage (72), xSLG (72), and walk percentage (76). His wOBA (weighted on-base average) ranks in the top one percent of the league. In fact, Marsh had just 20 “barrels” in all of 2022, yet he already has five in only 66 at-bats thus far in 2023.
Phillies’ pitching trending upward
The box scores may not show it, but there were a lot more positives than negatives come out of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler’s outings.
Although he got hit around early, Nola was able to settle in as the game went on and gave the Phillies seven quality innings to keep the team in the game and give certain players in the Phillies’ bullpen a well-deserved rest. Nola ended up allowing three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out three.
Two days later, Zack Wheeler put on a show of his own. Seven of the nine outs he recorded in the first three innings were strikeouts, but he ran into some traffic in the fourth inning. Despite his pitch count skyrocketing once the fourth inning unraveled, he managed to get through six innings but threw 111 pitches. Wheeler had great movement on all his pitches and was able to utilize each of them to record outs. Most importantly, Wheeler’s velocity stayed relatively consistent throughout his start. He struck out a season-high eleven batters.
Meanwhile, the Phillies’ bullpen has started to mold into shape. Seranthony Dominguez, Connor Brogdon, and Gregory Soto combined for 6.2 scoreless innings in six total appearances this series, and Jose Alvarado’s dominance continued. Craig Kimbrel, even, managed to record his second save of the season in game three.
The Phillies and Mariners will face off in a three-game set at Citizens Bank Park beginning Tuesday.