PHILADELPHIA – Zack Wheeler had more hits than he allowed on Saturday.
That’s a good recipe for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wheeler, a former Met, struck out 10 while throwing seven one-hit innings, leading the Phillies to a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Wheeler retired his last 17 batters after Travis d’Arnaud singled with one out in the second. He also singled off Jean Segura in the fifth and a home double with Alec Bohm in the sixth.
Wheeler mixed a fastball that hit 90 with a sinker that knocked the Braves off balance. The 10 strikeouts were Wheeler’s most since signing with the Phillies in December 2019.
“When you have everything working (straight, shift, curve, slider) and you put it where you want it, it makes things a lot easier,” said Wheeler.
“That’s as good as I’ve seen it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That was a tough day trying to hit (Wheeler).”
Wheeler’s strong start, combined with Aaron Nola’s strong start in Philadelphia’s opening day win, highlights the potential for the top of the Phillies’ rotation.
“I don’t know if enough good things can be said about what (Wheeler) did today,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He made some good late-game changes. He’s as good as his things have been. “
Archie Bradley and Hector Neris each worked a perfect inning after Wheeler (1-0) left. He marked consecutive scoreless starts for the Philadelphia bullpen, which posted a historically inept 7.06 ERA in 2020.
Wheeler put the Phillies ahead to clinch his scorer single in the fifth off Charlie Morton (0-1). Andrew McCutchen then walked and Rhys Hoskins made it 3-0 with a two-run double.
Wheeler is the Phillies’ first pitcher with multiple hits and RBIs in a game since Ben Lively on Sept. 5, 2017. He was allowed to return to the box after the NL again allowed pitchers to hit this year. The designated hitter was used in both leagues for the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic.
“I had one at-bat in the spring before they closed us (in the spring of 2020) and one this spring,” Wheeler said. “But we are hitting a lot in the cage. As a pitcher, you will see a fastball. You just have to be able to hit him. “
Morton allowed six hits, struck out five and walked two in five innings. He allowed each of his three runs in the fifth, a play that began with a two-out single by Segura and Roman Quinn when he was hit by a pitch.
“That two-strike curveball for Segura was not a well-executed pitch, especially for an aggressive hitter,” Morton said. “Wheeler’s punch, I couldn’t believe it would come to that. I just have to do a better job with a two strike count. The guys did a great job behind me, but I wasted it there. “