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A near no-no for Wheeler and Castellanos' best night as Phils beat White Sox

A near no-no for Wheeler and Castellanos' best night as Phils beat White Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Rob Thomson probably breathed a sigh of relief when Korey Lee sent a single past Bryce Harper into right field in the eighth inning Saturday night.

His ace, Zack Wheeler, was at 105 pitches with a nine-run lead and eight outs left in a no-hit bid. It's a difficult spot for a manager who has to keep the long game in mind, particularly with a pitcher as crucial to the Phillies' ultimate goal as Wheeler.

It didn't look like a fair fight on paper — one of the two or three best starters in baseball against the worst team in either league — and, boy, was it not.

Wheeler's night began with a pesky, 10-pitch walk from Nicky Lopez but he retired the next 13 without a ball leaving the infield. His only other baserunner until the eighth inning was a hit batsman with one out in the fifth. He opened the eighth at 101 pitches so he would have needed consecutive single-digit innings, which is never likely.

Coincidentally, this was the same point in the game Wheeler lost a no-hit bid last June 8 against the Tigers, when he gave up a single with one out in the eighth.

"It is (disappointing)," Wheeler said of losing it late, "but at the end of the day, it's a good start and what you want to do every time out there."

Thomson said he would have pushed Wheeler to about 120 pitches, telling him after the seventh he had 20 left.

"We had a talk after the seventh. He said he was going to try to get some quick outs," Thomson said. "It's kind of a tough deal right there but I'm not gonna let him get hurt right there, that's for sure. You want him to get the no-hitter but you don't want to put him in jeopardy because it's a long year. And he understood that, too, he was good with it."

The Phillies scored three runs in the second and two apiece in the fifth, sixth and seventh in a 9-5 win. Chicago batted around and scored all five of its runs off Ricardo Pinto in the ninth. The Phils didn't begin the inning imagining they'd need to go to Jose Alvarado but did for the final out.

Thomson has faced difficult decisions this week because of how well his starters have pitched. Ranger Suarez threw a shutout on Tuesday and would've been removed had he put one more man on base. Spencer Turnbull carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning Friday.

All of those pitches add up. Michael Lorenzen threw 124 in his no-hitter last August, then had an 8.01 ERA the rest of the season. Johan Santana was famously never the same after his 134-pitch no-no. It doesn't always play out that way, but there's little need to chance it with a pitcher who's carried as big a workload as anyone the last five years.

"When Lorenzen did it, right after he did it, I spoke to that, that there could be some side effects. And there were," Thomson said. "I didn't think Lorenzen really pitched the same way again until we got into the playoffs. There's an effect and you have to be aware of that."

The Phillies' rotation has been unbelievably good this season and at its best this week. These are their last five starts:

· Zack Wheeler: 7⅓ IP, 1 H, 0 R, 8 K

· Spencer Turnbull: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R

· Cristopher Sanchez: 6 IP, 0 ER, 10 K

· Ranger Suarez: 9 IP, 0 R, 8 K

· Aaron Nola: 7⅓ IP, 1 R, 9 K

Altogether: 36⅔ IP, 18 H, 1 ER, 7 BB, 41 K

After sweeping the National League-worst Rockies, the Phillies have outscored the American League-worst White Sox 16-5 in back-to-back wins. The Phils are 13-8 after winning five straight games and eight of 10. You can only play the team in front of you that night and they've done an admirable job this week of capitalizing on the woes of their opponents.

This White Sox team isn't just normal bad, it's a special kind of terrible. They never spend money to begin with, but they've stripped their roster the last two years of pretty much every useful veteran without infusing much young talent. Without the injured Luis Robert Jr., they have one player who might be in the lineup every day for a good team in Eloy Jimenez, whose own career has been marred by injuries.

But that's not the Phillies' problem. You only get so many opportunities against baseball's worst teams and they've done what they're supposed to do: jump out to early leads and strangle clubs destined for 100-plus losses.

Wheeler had received just five runs of support total in his first four starts and that nearly tripled Saturday.

Brandon Marsh opened the scoring when he caught a down-and-in changeup from former Braves right-hander Mike Soroka and crushed it over the wall in right-center for a two-run homer.

Nick Castellanos followed with a triple off the top of the wall in right, his first extra-base hit of the season in his 79th plate appearance. He scored on a two-out, two-strike single to left by Johan Rojas.

Castellanos had his best night of the season after entering hitless in his last 16 at-bats. He had the opposite-field triple, an opposite-field single, another well-struck single up the middle to drive in two runs, and a walk. He'd have taken any kind of three-hit night, but it's often a promising sign when he's hitting the ball with authority the other way.

Rojas has been productive at the plate lately, going 11-for-27 (.385) over the last nine games with two doubles, two walks and four stolen bases. He's hitting .245 with a .315 on-base percentage. If he ends the season with those numbers, it's a win for the Phillies with his elite defense and ability to steal a base practically any time he reaches. He might be the fastest player on a team that includes Trea Turner.

Turner (.353 BA) stayed hot with two hits, including a two-run double.

"He's able to do that each and every outing, each and every night for us," Turner said of Wheeler. "Glad we finally got him a win, gave him some run support. Just vintage Zack, pounding the zone, had command of all of his pitches. He's really tough to hit when he mixes them all."

The Phillies go for the sweep Sunday afternoon with Nola on the mound.