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Phillies notes: Wheeler sees positives in start that included one pitch that made the difference

PHILADELPHIA — Zack Wheeler reflected on another halfway disappointing day’s work Sunday, concluding as always that his production as the Phillies’ top pitcher is always a work in progress, especially when the prospect of production from his teammates tends to be an exercise in frustration.

For the fourth time this very young season, a Wheeler start went down the tubes, as he went one bad pitch too many in the sixth inning to open the floodgates to a 9-2 Pirates victory at Citizens Bank Park.

Wheeler escaped some trouble in the first inning, gave up a run that should have been unearned — due to an awry throw by catcher J.T. Realmuto on a two-out double steal that allowed a run to score — before having it fall apart four batters into the sixth inning. That’s when left-handed left fielder Jack Suwinski swatted a Wheeler half-curve into the stands for a grand slam and 6-2 Pirates lead.

The way the Phillies weren’t hitting, that indeed served as game over.

“It was down a little bit, but it was (over the) middle,” Wheeler said of his 100th pitch of the day. “It was a little bit of a hanger, and he put good wood on it. He back-spun it out of there. It was kind of weird seeing that off the bat.”

What’s weirder is that in his three starts prior to this game, Wheeler had pitched to a 1.89 ERA over three verified quality starts … producing two losses and a no-decision. Over his four games, the Phillies have lost all four, scoring a not-so-grand total of six runs.

“It is frustrating. We haven’t really swung the bats in his starts,” manager Rob Thomson said of Wheeler. “That’ll change. For the most part, he’s pitched really well. Even in that last inning today, (it was) error, walk, kind of a fly ball base hit, and then Suwinski. The pitch was over the plate but it was down, and it was still 96 (mph).”

But with Suwinski coming to the plate, righty Wheeler faced a bases-loaded, no-outs situation against a lefty. And Wheeler was already at 98 pitches. So…

“No, he’s our guy,” Thomson said, waving off the thought of pulling his ace at that point. “He’s our stud. I was going to let him try and get through as many hitters as he could. … His pitch count was fine. He was at (almost) 100, so he probably had a couple of hitters left.”

No, just one.

Meanwhile, it’s April, the sun is shining, the wind wasn’t blowing the trash around too harshly. So why dwell on the negative when you see too much of it every fifth day?

“Today was good, but it was frustrating at the same time,” Wheeler said. “The outcome wasn’t good, but I felt personally I made some good strides. Mechanically I made an adjustment between my last start and this start. The ball was definitely coming out better today.”

Wheeler indicated the adjustment allowed him to “be more free and easy. … Something as simple as staying more upright instead of leaning over on my front side, so the ball’s going to move a little different.

“I think I had a good approach, too,” Wheeler added. “Sometimes you have to give them a lot of credit. They weren’t biting on a lot of stuff down.”

Nor were the Phillies taking much of a bite out of Pirates starter Mitch Keller, who except for a Trea Turner solo homer and Trea Turner RBI single, gave up nothing harmful over seven innings for the win. But then, for the Phillies, lack of run support for their ace is a signature characteristic. Aaron Nola too often over too many seasons, and certainly, Zack Wheeler so far this one.

“You never want to waste a good start, especially when your ace is up there,” Turner said. “It’s positive and negative. It feels like we beat ourselves. We were right in there playing good but obviously we let that one get away. If you don’t play well enough anybody can beat you. But the positive way of looking at it is, I think we’re right there. We just have to do it the entire game.”

• • •

Kyle Schwarber put up an oh-for-4 Sunday, but that came after a Saturday game in which he hit his 20th career leadoff homer as a Phillie, then wound up reaching base five times, all against left-handed pitching. Kyle who?

“I guess you can say the results are there,” he said after Saturday’s 4-3 win. “There are balls getting through and things like that. But I think the biggest thing I want to find myself doing … just swing at balls in the zone and try to take the ones out of the zone. Being aggressive in the zone is something I want to focus on.”

• • •

Playing a starring role in his team’s latest less-than satisfying offensive show was Bryce Harper.

His 0-for-4 collar Sunday lowered his average to .190.

“He’s just frustrated, just trying to do too much, I think,” Thomson said of Harper. “He’s maybe overswinging a little bit and not getting his contact point exactly where he usually has it. He just has to fight through it.” … Nola on the mound Monday evening against Colorado’s Cal Quantrill. The Rockies are in for three games, followed by three more at home with the White Sox this week. Those two visiting teams are a combined 6-25 this season.


Source: Berkshire mont

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