Zack Wheeler steals the show on the mound and at the plate as Phillies beat Braves

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Jim Salisbury
·3 min read
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Timely 2-out hitting and great pitching wins Phillies their first series originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Zack Wheeler put on a show in his first start of the 2021 season Saturday afternoon. The right-hander pitched seven shutout innings and drove in two runs to headline the Phillies' 4-0 win over the Atlanta Braves in front of 8,582 at Citizens Bank Park.

Three Phillies pitchers held the Braves to one hit.

Phillies pitchers did not walk a batter.

The game was played in a crisp 2 hours, 30 minutes.

The Phillies are off to a 2-0 start on the new season. The Phils, who have not had a winning season since 2011, actually started off the 2019 season at 4-0, their first three wins coming in a sweep of the Braves, who have won three straight NL East titles.

Good Wheels

Wheeler signed a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies before the 2020 season. He went 4-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts during the shortened season last year. This was his best start with the Phils.

Wheeler allowed just one hit and did not walk a batter in his seven innings of work. He struck out 10.

The only hit that Wheeler allowed — in fact, the only one the Braves got — came with one out in the second inning when Travis d'Arnaud stroked a first-pitch fastball (97 mph) up the middle for a single. After that, Wheeler retired 17 straight before manager Joe Girardi lifted him at 90 pitches, which was understandable given that it was his first start of the season.

At the plate

Wheeler stroked a pair of two-out hits, both of which drove in a run.

Not bad considering NL pitchers did not bat last season. Wheeler hadn't hit in a game since September 26, 2019 when he was with the Mets.

Two-out runs

All four of the Phillies' runs came on two-out hits.

More Wheels

Wheeler threw mostly fastballs (four-seamers and sinkers) and sliders. His four-seamer topped out at 99.8 mph in the first inning while facing Ozzie Albies. It was the fifth-hardest pitch of Wheeler's career. He averaged 97.7 mph on the four-seamers. He got 16 swings and misses in 90 pitches.

Bullpen delivers

The Phillies' bullpen is up to 5⅓ scoreless innings in two games. Archie Bradley and Hector Neris followed Wheeler with scoreless work. Neris struck out the side in the ninth. Phillies pitchers retired the final 23 Braves hitters they faced.

Big fifth

Atlanta starter Charlie Morton matched zeroes with Wheeler through four innings. Morton struck out the first two batters of the fifth before six straight Phillies reached base. Jean Segura started it with a base hit on a 1-2 pitch, followed by Roman Quinn, who was hit by a pitch. Wheeler then helped himself with an RBI single up the middle on a first-pitch fastball and Rhys Hoskins followed with a two-run double to left on a 1-2 pitch as the Phils took a 3-0 lead.

Morton retired J.T. Realmuto on a ground ball to third base with the bases loaded to end the inning. The Phillies made Morton throw 30 pitches in the inning, forcing the Braves to go to their bullpen.

Health check

Outfielder Adam Haseley was available for the game. He had come out of Thursday's game with a tight hamstring. Girardi said Haseley would likely play Sunday.

Up next

Zach Eflin pitches for the Phillies on Sunday afternoon against Ian Anderson.

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