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For openers: Zack Wheeler sharp, bullpen sad for Phillies

PHILADELPHIA — Gifted a two-run lead from staff ace Zack Wheeler, who generally breezed through 89 pitches over six innings, the Phillies’ bullpen threw 71 mostly awful pitches in only two innings, leading to nine runs over the seventh and eighth while handing the Braves a 9-3 decision at Citizens Bank Park.

Makes you wonder how in the world MLB.com ranked the Phillies’ bullpen tops in the league entering the season.

Also leaves you wondering why manager Rob Thomson didn’t try to get another inning out of Wheeler, who had a five-hitter going.

“I didn’t go that long in the spring all that much,” said Wheeler, who notched five strikeouts and didn’t allow a walk. “It was Game 1, Start 1. You don’t want to press on the gas too much. It’s a long season so (Thomson)’s got to keep that in mind. Didn’t get the buildup that I normally would have because some things happened in the spring. … It’s not the end of the world. There will be other starts.”

Thomson felt the same way about the bullpen, insisting he’s not alarmed by the showing on a cold, borderline blustery day in front of 44,452 at Citizens Bank Park.

After Wheeler took a seat, Matt Strahm started the seventh inning and gave up a line drive single to Michael Harris II. Strahm fanned Sean Murphy but Orlando Arcia doubled to center. Pinch hitter Adam Duvall followed with a game-tying two-run double that triggered boos and brought Jeff Hoffman to the mound.

Hoffman walked Ronald Acuna Jr., which isn’t a bad thing and then got Ozzie Albie to ground out and struck out Austin Riley.

But the eighth inning was a disaster. Jose Alvarado gave up a double to Matt Olson and a flyout to Marcell Ozuna. Harris gave the Braves the lead with a single and Travis d’Arnaud walked. Arcia struck out swinging but Duvall walked and Acuna made it 4-2 with an RBI single. Thirty pitches, three hits, five earned runs and two walks.

“A lot of wind today,” Alvarado said. “That’s no excuse. My mentality is today is over, get ready for tomorrow.”

Connor Brogdon replaced Alvarado and allowed another run to score on a wild pitch. In 0.1 innings Brogdon was charged with one hit, two earned runs and two walks on 24 pitches.

“Really it was uncharacteristic of our entire bullpen to give up a lot of walks,” said Thomson, who sat through five bases on balls by the bullpen. “They just didn’t seem to have a feel for throwing strikes.”

Thomson said he gave no thought to pitching Wheeler another inning this early in the season.

“Marsh hits a two-run homer and you’re feeling good with the bullpen that we have,” Thomson said of Brandon Marsh’s fifth inning shot. “It just didn’t play out that way. That will change. I have complete confidence in our bullpen … and our offense.”

The good news on the pitching front was Wheeler, who already is finding his groove. The splitter he added to his repertoire was a success, as well.

“Yeah, it was a really good pitch for me today,” Wheeler said. “I threw a couple to the backstop so it’s always fun. It’s just about making adjustments with it once you’re out there. I got the results I wanted with it, though. There were two base hits with it, two bleeders down the third base line so that was kind of frustrating. But you also get very soft contact. I was just happy with that pitch in particular today.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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