World Series

Wheeler dominant aside from Hoskins HR as Phillies take series opener

Wheeler dominant aside from Hoskins HR as Phillies take series opener

Wheeler dominant aside from Hoskins HR as Phillies take series opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Zack Wheeler was visibly frustrated after consecutive pitches in the third inning Monday night. Two strikes in a row had been called balls by home-plate umpire Sean Barber and Wheeler froze as he caught both return throws, clearly wondering where they missed.

Joey Ortiz walked and nine-hole hitter Blake Perkins singled to load the bases on Wheeler with nobody out. The Phillies led by two runs but it was a pivotal moment in the game with the top of the order due up and Milwaukee having a chance to either tie the game or take a lead.

Pesky, speedy leadoff man Brice Turang worked a deep count and on the seventh pitch grounded a ball back to Wheeler, who made an immediate albeit wild throw back to the plate. J.T. Realmuto fielded Wheeler's short-hop and fired to first base for a huge 1-2-3 double play. With a strikeout of the dangerous William Contreras, Wheeler was out of the inning moments later and mostly sailed along from there.

Realmuto's play won't show up in any box score but might have been a game-saver. If he misses Wheeler's throw in the dirt, at least one and potentially two runs score, two more runners are in scoring position and there's still nobody out.

These are the little things the 42-19 Phillies have done all season and did again in Monday's 3-1 win.

"It's a big moment in the game and a shutdown inning opportunity," Wheeler said. "J.T. made an awesome play, not too many catchers in the league would make that play, not many at all. Just good defense behind me all night.

"You're always ready for the comebacker but it was hit a little bit in front of me and I was trying to be too quick, which happens sometimes in that moment. Just trying to make it quick, make sure we get two. We almost got none, but thanks to J.T."

Wheeler improved to 7-3 with a 2.24 ERA. He threw 114 pitches, his second-most in five seasons with the Phillies. Manager Rob Thomson felt comfortable extending him a bit longer than usual with Wheeler expected to receive at least one extra day before his next start. The Phils are off Thursday and Friday because of their two-game series with the Mets in London Saturday and Sunday. It sounds like Wheeler will start again next Tuesday.

"He's got a week off now before his next start, and two nights ago, Ranger (Suarez) came out after two," Thomson said. "We went into extra innings last night, so our bullpen's a little bit roughed up and a little bit thin.

"The Ortiz at-bat (the final hitter he faced) was Wheeler's last at-bat and then I would've had to go get him and we probably would have had to use two more pitchers instead of just (Jeff) Hoffman and (Jose) Alvarado. I was hoping Wheels got out of it and he did. It was great."

The quartet of Wheeler, Ranger Suarez, Aaron Nola and Cristopher Sanchez has a combined 2.43 ERA in 292⅓ innings this season. To put that in context, one starting pitcher in all of baseball (Blake Snell) had an ERA that low a season ago.

The Phillies singled four times to score the game's first two runs in the top of the second Monday night. Debuting left fielder David Dahl wrapped a base-hit between first and second base to put runners on the corners with two outs and Edmundo Sosa and Johan Rojas followed with RBI singles.

The Phillies have outscored teams 87-44 in the first two innings of games this season, nearly doubling their opponents' output.

Two innings later, Dahl socked a missile to right field for a solo home run. Pretty good first day with the new club.

Dahl and Weston Wilson, roommates in Allentown, were called up from Triple A Monday afternoon as Brandon Marsh (right hamstring strain) and Kody Clemens (back spasms) were placed on the 10-day injured list.

There was a ton of energy and emotion at Citizens Bank Park Monday night with 43,553 on hand for Rhys Hoskins' first game back in Philly since signing with the Brewers in late January. Hoskins batted sixth as Milwaukee's designated hitter and clubbed a solo home run off of Wheeler with two outs in the seventh inning. Earlier in the night, he popped out, walked and was thrown out at the plate by Rojas trying to score from a second on a two-out single.

Hoskins received huge ovations all night but particularly in the second inning. The Phillies held a video tribute to him before the top of the second and the game paused for about 30 seconds as he stepped to the plate. Hoskins patted Realmuto on the head and back and the catcher obviously recognized the moment, standing up and walking toward the mound to give Hoskins and the crowd time to soak it all in.

The Brewers are the best team the Phillies have faced since their opening three games of the season vs. the Braves but the Phils took Game 1 as they've done in 15 of their last 18 series.

The Phillies are 17-6 against teams that either have a winning record or would have a winning record if not for their losses to the Phils.

"Just all-around, we're playing good, fundamental baseball," Wheeler said. "It's fun to watch."

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