Wheeler (11 K's), Harper (HR) help MLB-best Phils break out brooms

Philadelphia completes four-game sweep of San Francisco with sixth straight win

May 7th, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- If any team is equipped to handle the extended absence of a superstar, it is the Phillies.

They played weeks without in each of the past two seasons, and they survived. They have the manpower to handle Trea Turner’s loss, too. They have a long way to go -- Turner could miss more than six weeks after injuring his left hamstring -- but they won their first three games without him, including Monday afternoon’s 6-1 victory over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils swept the four-game series to improve to 25-11, which is the best record in the Majors.

“What good teams do is ‘next guy up,’” Phillies ace said. “We’ll wait for him to get back, but we’ve got to take care of business while he’s gone.”

Wheeler allowed one unearned run in seven innings, striking out 11 and allowing four hits and one walk. He got 13 whiffs on his four-seam fastball, tying for the second-most whiffs on his four-seamer in his career.

“That’s my bread and butter,” he said.

Wheeler is 4-3 with a 1.64 ERA in eight starts. He is fourth among qualified starters in ERA. He is sixth in WHIP (0.89). He is tied with Dodgers starter Tyler Glasnow for the most strikeouts (63). He leads all pitchers with 1.8 WAR, according to FanGraphs.

Wheeler entered the season saying he wanted to win a Cy Young Award. He is pitching like it.

Harper might be heating up at the perfect time, too. He went 2-for-4 with an opposite-field three-run homer in the fifth inning against Giants rookie Mason Black, who grew up a huge Phillies fan and was making his MLB debut in front of family and friends.

It was Harper’s second homer in as many games and his eighth of the season.

Harper was batting .234 with six homers, 18 RBIs and a .798 OPS through April 28. He is batting .286 with two homers, six RBIs and a 1.135 OPS over his past seven games. He has a .516 on-base percentage and a .619 slugging percentage in that stretch.

“He’s not getting a lot of pitches in the zone,” Wheeler said. “It’s always tough for a really good hitter to lay off non-strikes because you’re such a good hitter. You want to be that guy. It just shows how good he really is to be patient up there and wait for his pitch.”

Harper had seen only 43.3 percent of pitches in the zone this season entering Monday, which was the second-lowest rate in the Majors out of 185 hitters (minimum 400 pitches seen). He saw only 40.5 percent of pitches in the zone last year, which was the lowest mark in the Majors out of 217 hitters (minimum 1,500 pitches seen).

The percentage of pitches thrown to Harper in each zone in 2024 (via Baseball Savant).

“You can tell in his takes in the batter’s box how good he feels right now,” J.T. Realmuto said. “He’s looking like himself. Just having conversations with him in the clubhouse, he’s got the feel and knows what he wants to do right now.”

Harper has been chasing fewer pitches out of the zone, cutting his chase rate from 31.7 percent through April 28 to 22.1 percent in the six games before Monday.

Harper's swing percentage in each zone in 2024 (via Baseball Savant).

“It’s just trying to get pitches in the zone and hit those in the zone and take the ones out of the zone the best I can,” Harper said. “I’ve been talking to Trea about some swing stuff and seeing what he thinks. Just trying to put forth the effort, obviously, every day I got there. I’m just trying to keep the consistency. I want to hit over .300 always and get my doubles and things like that. Slowly but surely coming through and getting there.”

This is only the third time in the Phillies’ 142-year history they have reached 25 wins in 36 or fewer games. They were 25-9 in 1976 and 25-10 in '93.

Their starting pitching is the biggest reason for this historic start. It should keep them in almost every game while Turner is away. But the lineup has the firepower to score enough runs, too.

“These guys are highly motivated,” manager Rob Thomson said. “I just remind them to stay humble and just play the game. That’s it. Just do your thing. Don’t try to do too much. Just do your thing.”