Phillies vs. Brewers: Zack Wheeler, Phils doomed by ugly fifth inning

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Shaky defense and one bad inning dooms Phillies in loss to Brewers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A sloppy fifth inning Saturday doomed the Phillies, who had built a three-run lead behind Zack Wheeler by outplaying the Brewers in all phases to that point.

And unlike Friday's series opener, there was no late offense left in the tank against Milwaukee's strong bullpen tandem of Devin Williams and Josh Hader.

Wheeler started and pitched well until the Phils' ugly fifth, retiring 10 Brewers in a row before Rowdy Tellez greeted him with a leadoff double. Milwaukee ended up scoring four times in the inning. Two of the singles were not hard-hit, and one run scored on a bad throw to second by J.T. Realmuto with runners on the corners and Christian Yelich attempting to steal second. Realmuto's throw trickled into center field, allowing Willy Adames to score.

Kyle Schwarber also made a weak throw to the plate in the inning in a spot where a good throw could have nailed the runner. Schwarber fielded the single with momentum coming toward the plate but uncorked a 10-hopper that barely made it past the infield dirt in the 5-3 loss.

Manager Joe Girardi visited Wheeler on the mound with two on, two outs and two runs in. Wheeler, who threw 65 and 66 pitches in his first two starts, was at 75. Girardi left him in and Yelich hit a broken-bat RBI single to right that tied the game before the Brewers eventually took a lead. Wheeler finished the fifth, throwing a total of 84 pitches.

On a positive and potentially more important long-term note, Wheeler's velocity was up. His four-seam fastball average was up by 1.2 mph to 95.9, his sinker was up by 1.5 mph to 95.6 and his slider was up by 1.7 mph to 91.7. This is a meaningful development after Wheeler's fastball velocity was down in his first two starts to 94.9 from the 97.2 it averaged in 2020 and 2021.

Wheeler generated eight swinging strikes on his 47 fastballs compared to just two in the 73 he threw in his first two starts.

The loss dropped the Phillies to 6-9. Losers of three straight series, the Phils go for a series win Sunday with Aaron Nola on the mound before hosting Colorado for four.

Early offense

The Phillies got on the board early with a two-out RBI double by Nick Castellanos in the first inning following a double from Bryce Harper. Down 0-2 in the count, Castellanos got a 93 mph fastball from Adrian Houser that caught too much of the outer-third of the plate and took it down the right-field line for a two-bagger.

During the Phillies' game-winning, eighth-inning rally Friday night, four of their five hits came with two strikes.

Castellanos drove in another run with a first-pitch sacrifice fly with runners on the corners in the third inning.

Odubel Herrera, in his second game back from the injured list, tripled in his second at-bat and came around to score when Kolten Wong couldn't glove Jean Segura's pop-up to shallow right field. Wong should have been called off by rightfielder Hunter Renfroe but the Brewers made several defensive miscues in that third inning, also leaving third base unoccupied for Segura to steal and score on Castellanos' flyball.

The Phillies went just 3 for 18 with three singles after the Segura third-inning pop-up that should've been caught.

Up next

Nola (1-2, 5.52) opposes Brewers left-hander Eric Lauer (1-3, 3.48).

Nola allowed two runs in 5⅓ innings earlier this week at Coors Field. Over his last 33 starts dating back to April 13, he's allowed two runs or less in back-to-back outings just two times. The Phillies need him to get on a roll.

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