Wheeler shuts out Crew for Phillies sweep

Right-hander faces minimum through 8, felt fine during 118-pitch outing

May 6th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- No Major League pitcher has turned in more outings of at least seven innings than since he joined the Phillies last season -- but it had been nearly seven years since he finished what he started on his own.

That changed on Thursday afternoon, when Wheeler helped the Phils complete a four-game sweep of the Brewers by tossing a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory at Citizens Bank Park. It was just the second complete game of his career, with the other coming on June 19, 2014, against the Marlins (also a three-hit shutout).

"That's the goal, right? To go out there and pitch seven innings or more. Being realistic, it's hard to throw a complete game every time," Wheeler said. "But that's the goal -- seven to nine innings -- just trying to save the bullpen and help the team out the best you can."

Wheeler's masterful performance nearly ended like many of those others: Putting the team in a great position to win before turning it over to the bullpen to finish it off.

After cruising through the first eight innings -- and facing the minimum 24 batters -- Wheeler ran into some trouble in the ninth. He allowed back-to-back one-out singles before getting Kolten Wong to fly out -- but only after throwing eight pitches in the at-bat to run his pitch count to 117.

As soon as Wong's fly ball settled into Andrew McCutchen's glove, manager Joe Girardi emerged from the dugout and trotted to the mound.

"I just wanted to make sure he was OK," Girardi said. "You've got to look people in the eyes and trust that you're telling you the truth."

"He asked me if I could get this guy and I said, ‘Yeah,’" Wheeler said. "That was pretty much it."

"We both were very adamant that we were going to finish that game," catcher Andrew Knapp said.

Wheeler did exactly that, getting Daniel Vogelbach to pop out to first baseman Rhys Hoskins in foul territory on the first pitch of the at-bat -- and his 118th of the game. That's one shy of the most by any pitcher in the Majors this season (Shane Bieber threw 119 on April 24). Wheeler's 726 pitches overall are the most in the National League. Aaron Nola is fourth with 672.

"Sometimes it frustrates you when somebody takes you out when you feel like you aren't done," Wheeler said of the trust Girardi has shown in him. "I appreciate him. He's been around awhile, and he has a feel, and I think he knows me by now. I'm a pretty honest guy, so if I'm feeling like I'm not on or I might need somebody, I'll tell him just to have somebody up.

"Today, I felt fine. I kind of breezed through that game, and I felt fine all the way through."

Wheeler's effort continued what has been a drastic turn in the Phillies' outlook over the last four days. The club entered this week's four-game set against the Brewers sitting two games below .500 and not knowing how long it would be without Bryce Harper (sore left wrist) and Jean Segura (strained right quad).

Now, the Phils (17-15) head to Atlanta two games above .500 -- and both Harper and Segura will be on that flight. Each player took swings in the cage on Thursday and Segura will be activated off the IL prior to Friday's game after outfielder Mickey Moniak was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following Thursday's game. Harper, meanwhile, will be evaluated prior to Friday's series opener against the Braves at Truist Park.

In their absence, it was a different hitter who stepped up each game to earn the sweep.

On Monday, J.T. Realmuto set the tone with a two-run homer and Roman Quinn added an RBI triple. McCutchen hit two homers on Tuesday and Brad Miller added a three-run shot. Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam on Wednesday. And on Thursday, it was Alec Bohm who delivered a solo homer off Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff to snap a scoreless tie in the seventh.

Bohm's homer was all the support Wheeler needed.

The right-hander has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last three outings -- the first Phillies pitcher to do that since Nola in 2019 -- and he's second in the Majors in innings pitched (47 2/3), behind only Bieber (48 1/3).

"He's just a horse," Bohm said. "He wants the ball -- he doesn't care what his pitch count is, he doesn't care what the score is -- he just wants to go out there and put up zeros for us. You can tell that in the way he carries himself, and it's really fun to play behind Zack."