Phillies vs. Rays: Zack Wheeler strikes out 14 but Phils lose

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Phillies unable to back Wheeler on a 14-strikeout afternoon originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Despite a career-high 14 strikeouts from Zack Wheeler on yet another dominant afternoon, the Phillies lost their series opener to the Rays, 5-3, in Tampa.

The winning run for the Rays was set up in the eighth inning when Randy Arozarena beat out an infield single and advanced two bases on a wild pitch by Sam Coonrod. Jose Alvarado entered and allowed a game-winning single to Austin Meadows on an 0-2 count before hitting a batter and walking in an insurance run.

"It changed the whole inning and the complexion of the game," manager Joe Girardi said of that costly wild pitch.

The loss dropped the 25-27 Phillies to 10-17 on the road. Only the Rangers, Diamondbacks and Rockies have been worse away from home.

It was another unsightly offensive performance for the Phillies with 15 strikeouts and just five hits. It doesn’t seem to matter who the starting pitcher is, the Phillies are going to strike out. Their opponent in this one was lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who had whiffed six hitters in his last 12 innings and 6.9 per nine innings the last two seasons. Naturally, he had seven K’s through four innings against the Phillies. It also happened last week with Red Sox left-hander Martin Perez, a contact pitcher who set a season-high with seven strikeouts against the Phillies.

It’s one thing when it’s Max Scherzer or Sandy Alcantara. It’s another when it’s Ryan Yarbrough and Martin Perez. The Phillies entered the day with 20 more strikeouts than any National League team.

Wheeler is on a remarkable roll. A start after matching a career-high in strikeouts set eight years ago, he blew past it. 

In his last five starts, Wheeler has a 1.49 ERA and 0.74 WHIP with 51 strikeouts in 36⅓ innings. The Phillies are 4-1.

"He had everything working," Girardi said. "He was able to get ahead, expand up, expand down, drop in curveballs late in the count to strike people out. He was outstanding. He made one bad pitch to Meadows."

Wheeler is the first Phillie since Curt Schilling in 1998 to strike out at least 10 hitters in three consecutive starts.

He did give up the three runs, two of them on one swing from Meadows in the first inning, but the Phillies fought back from a pair of deficits and the game was tied after seven.

Ronald Torreyes knotted things in the fifth inning with a two-run double down the right-field line. Roman Quinn scored on the play but seriously injured his Achilles and had to be helped off the field.

"It doesn’t look good," Girardi said. "I don’t expect to get any good news from the MRI. We’re pretty sure it’s not good."

Matt Joyce tied the game again two innings later with a solo home run. It broke an 0-for-28 skid for Joyce, who entered the game for Quinn.

Rhys Hoskins, who went 1 for 4, had a streak snapped of six straight games with at least one hit and one RBI. It was tied for the longest streak in the National League this season and the Phillies needed it without Bryce Harper (forearm), J.T. Realmuto (hand) and Didi Gregorius (elbow).

Realmuto returned Saturday after missing 11 days with a bruised hand. Unfortunately, it looked like Coonrod's wild pitch in the eighth caromed off that same bruised left hand of Realmuto's, which was initially hurt on David Hale's wild pitch in St. Louis at the end of April.

The quick two-game series ends with Sunday's 1:10 p.m. game. Zach Eflin pitches for the Phillies, while the Rays haven't named a starter.

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