Final Score: Rays 5, Phillies 3
Zack Wheeler’s career-high 14 strikeouts over seven innings on Saturday should have been the story.
In fairness, it was part of it, as the ever-improving right-hander turned in an unforgettable performance for his third straight start with double-digit punchouts, the first such stretch for a Phillie since 1998.
But in the end, the bigger story was another painful late loss for the Phillies, another ballgame that they had a chance to win but didn’t, another disappointing day away from Citizens Bank Park.
Wheeler wasn’t the only pitcher who was consistently missing bats at Tropicana Field, as the two teams combined for a whopping 31 Ks— the highest total in a nine-inning game all season. The Phillies got some timely contributions from the bottom of the lineup, but it was all for naught. The heart of the lineup missed a key opportunity late, the bullpen couldn’t replicate Wheeler’s magic, some untimely wildness from a pair of relievers gave the Rays the boost they needed and the Phillies fell to 25-27.
- The Rays jumped in front with some two-out life in the first inning, as Yandy Díaz singled before Austin Meadows golfed a low and in fastball to the seats in right center for a two-run homer. It was the first first-inning homer Wheeler has allowed as a Phillie and a tough blip in an otherwise dominant three-strikeout inning.
- Wheeler was nearly immaculate in the third inning, striking out the side on 10 pitches for already his fifth, sixth and seventh strikeouts. Wheeler and Ryan Yarbrough combined for 13 punchouts in the first three frames.
- “Get me [Ronald Torreyes] to the plate” has become a viable strategy for the Phillies as of late. After an Odúbel Herrera walk and beautiful Roman Quinn bunt hit set the table for the Phillies’ ninth-hitting shortstop in the fifth, Torreyes lined an opposite field double to tie the game at two. It wasn’t all good news for the Phillies, though: Quinn injured his left Achilles going around third, falling and hopping on one leg to score the run. Quinn was on the ground in serious pain for a while and had to be carried off the field. Matt Joyce took his place in right.
- Manuel Margot had trouble handling Torreyes’ double, allowing him to reach third on the play. But Rays reliever Ryan Thompson got a hard lineout to third from Andrew McCutchen and struck out Rhys Hoskins to strand the runner at third and keep things tied.
- Wheeler struck out three more in the fifth inning to reach 11 strikeouts through five frames. It’s the first time in Wheeler’s career he has struck out at least 10 in three consecutive starts, and he’s the first Phillie to do so since Curt Schilling in 1998.
- Wheeler ran into trouble in the sixth when he followed up two more strikeouts with back-to-back two-out walks. Ji-Man Choi made him pay, lacing a 97-mph fastball into center field to put the Rays up 3-2.
- Add Joyce to the list of unlikely contributors to the Phillies’ cause on Saturday. He broke out of an 0-for-28 streak with a towering solo homer off Rays lefty Jeffrey Springs, tying the game at three apiece in the seventh. Joyce has become quite familiar with The Trop’s right field; he played 345 games there as a member of the home team from 2009-14. On Saturday, he was reunited with both right field and the seats beyond it:
- The Phillies had a golden opportunity to set Wheeler up for the win when Jean Segura led off the eighth with a single and stolen base. However, Hoskins lined out to center, J.T. Realmuto struck out and Alec Bohm grounded into a fielder’s choice out to strand the runner.
- Sam Coonrod came on in relief of Wheeler for the eighth, conceding a leadoff infield single to Randy Arozarena before spiking a changeup for a two-base wild pitch. After Coonrod struck out Brandon Lowe and intentionally walked Díaz, former Ray José Alvarado came in and allowed an infield tapper by Meadows that got the go-ahead run home.
- Alvarado eventually hit Choi and walked Mike Brosseau to force in an insurance run. Alvarado has now walked 17 batters and hit four in 17 1/3 innings this season.
- J.P. Feyereisen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, and that was that.
Shibe Vintage Sports Starting Pitching Performance
Zack Wheeler: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 14 SO, 101 pitches
The career-high strikeout total indicates just how dominant Wheeler was on Saturday. He struck out three batters in three different innings and had every pitch type working all day. He ran into some trouble with two outs in the first and sixth innings, which gave the Rays all three of their runs off the righty.
Wheeler’s 14 strikeouts are the second-most in a single game by any pitcher this season (tied with Jacob deGrom, Jacob deGrom and two other pitchers, trailing only Jacob deGrom). The Rays entered the game with the third-most runs in baseball, and they certainly fought with two outs, raising Wheeler’s ERA to 2.52.
Ryan Yarbrough: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, 78 pitches
Yarbrough kept Phillies hitters off balance through the first four innings, particularly with a devastating changeup. The southpaw won’t overpower — he didn’t reach 90 mph all night — but he changed speeds effectively before running into a wall (and perhaps a tad of bad luck) in the fifth inning. His ERA started the day at 4.27 and finished at 4.26.
Phillies Nuggets Player of the Game: Austin Meadows
Meadows was one of just a few Rays hitters who were able to do any serious damage against Wheeler, as his two-run homer in the first was the biggest of four hits in the righty’s seven innings. Later, Meadows managed to put the ball in play with two strikes off Alvarado in the eighth, bringing the go-ahead run across on a ball that came off the bat at 59 mph.
Ticket IQ Next Game
- Sunday, May 30 vs. Tampa Bay Rays at 1:10 p.m. ET
- Tropicana Field
- NBC Sports Philadelphia
- 94 WIP
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