PHILADELPHIA -- The last time the Phillies won eight straight, Roy Halladay earned two wins during what became a nine-game streak. So it was fitting on Sunday, as the Phillies hung the late pitcher’s No. 34 in Ashburn Alley, that Philadelphia’s current ace honored the Hall of Famer in the best way possible: with a shutout.
Zack Wheeler dominated the Mets in a 3-0 win at Citizens Bank Park, leading the Phillies to a three-game sweep over his former team with a brilliant two-hit performance.
Wheeler walked one and struck out 11, retiring 22 straight batters at one point in the game. No Phillies pitcher had sat down that many hitters in a row since -- yup, you guessed it -- Halladay, who accomplished that feat during his perfect game on May 29, 2010.
“To do that on his day, what can you say?” Wheeler said. “Today was his day; I just tried to pitch like him.”
The Phillies’ winning streak now stands at eight, their longest since July 29-Aug. 6, 2011, when Halladay’s team won nine straight.
Just eight days ago, the Phillies sat in third place, trailing the Mets by 4 1/2 games. Sunday’s win strengthened the Phillies’ grip on the top spot in the National League East, as they now lead the Braves by two games and the Mets by 2 1/2.
“That's the thing about this game; you have to stay in for the long haul,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can have bad weeks; we had a bad couple of weeks at one point during the season, but it's a long season. You just have to keep doing your work, every day trying to get better and grinding things out.”
Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper each hit solo home runs against Taijuan Walker, but the day belonged to Wheeler, whose sixth double-digit strikeout game of the season moved him past Gerrit Cole of the Yankees for the Major League lead with 181 punchouts.
“On a day that you honor one of the greatest pitchers that I've witnessed pitch, he goes out and it was like Roy had his hand on him,” Girardi said. “He gives a Roy Halladay appearance today.”
Wheeler allowed a leadoff double to Brandon Nimmo to start the game, then retired the next 22 batters he faced until Michael Conforto drew a one-out walk in the eighth. The right-hander flashed impressive velocity all afternoon, throwing 48 pitches at 98 mph or harder, including a career-high 19 pitches of at least 99 mph.
“I saw it right away,” Girardi said. “There was a little extra in him today.”
“I think I'll always have that little chip on my shoulder,” Wheeler admitted of facing his former team. “We're all human. At the same time, you have to come here and concentrate, finish out the series with a win and get out of here with a sweep.”
A pumped-up crowd of 39,186 -- the largest at Citizens Bank Park this season -- gave Wheeler a huge ovation as he walked off the mound at the end of the eighth, appreciative of the masterful performance.
But Wheeler -- who was due up second in the home half of the inning -- wasn’t finished. Girardi sent him out for his at-bat, then back out to the mound for the ninth.
“He was going out no matter what,” Girardi said. “Probably about the seventh or the eighth, you start thinking, ‘Wow, this is special; on a day that we honor such a great pitcher, we're seeing such a great pitching performance.’ That's what Roy did on a number of occasions.”
The crowd cheered with delight as Wheeler ran back out for the final three outs, many of them sporting No. 34 jerseys on this memorable day. Nimmo picked up his second hit of the day with a one-out single, but Wheeler got Jeff McNeil to pop out to second base before striking out Pete Alonso to put an exclamation point on his performance.
“It was pure dominance today,” Harper said. “It's a good Mets lineup over there and he just was able to go out there and pitch his game. If Nimmo doesn't get those two hits, we're talking about something else. He wasn't coming out of that game. He was going to finish that game.”
Just like Doc would have.
“It’s what you try to do every game; you try to go out there and throw a complete game every time, no matter what,” Wheeler said. “It just happened to be on Roy's day, and that gave me a little push. I saw his number on the back of the mound every time, so that pushed me a little bit more.”