Phillies Analysis

Wheeler bounces back, Castellanos drives in 5 as Phillies blast D-backs

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The first pitch Diamondbacks starter Tommy Henry threw Saturday was a fastball, up and in, to Kyle Schwarber.

The second pitch was another fastball, not as up but considerably more in, and nicked the Phillies leadoff hitter. He dropped his bat and trotted to first.

The headlines from an oppressively hot late afternoon at Citizens Bank Park were obvious.

Zack Wheeler bounces back from one of his worst starts ever, holds Arizona to one run on two hits and no walks in seven dominant innings!

Nick Castellanos drives in five runs and Bryce Harper three; Four homers lift Phils to 12-1 romp!

Just below the surface, though, a question lurked. Was Schwarber being hit by a pitch for the first time this year just one of those things that happens from time to time? Or did it have something to do with the fact that Phillies pitchers had nailed three Arizona hitters the night before?

The old school answer is easy. A Phillies batter would have hit by a pitch to send a message that the D-Backs weren’t going to serve as live shooting gallery targets. Then the case would be considered closed. Phillies manager Rob Thomson, who began his professional career almost 40 years ago, swore the thought never crossed his mind.

“Not at all,” he said. “I don’t think they wanted to hit Schwarber leading off the game. I don’t think it was intentional, not do I think (Friday) was intentional.”

Maybe that’s the way the game is played these days. Just one postscript: Wheeler hit Diamondbacks clean-up Christian Walker leading off the fifth. Arizona reliever Scott McGough came right back and drilled Edmundo Sosa in the bottom of the inning, literally knocking him out of the game with a left elbow contusion. X-rays were negative and Sosa is listed day-to-day. So we’ll see what, if anything, happens next.

In the bigger picture, for one game at least, the Phillies displayed the sort of pitching/hitting prowess that was almost a nightly occurrence while they were winning 29 of 35 from April 15 through May 23.

Wheeler has been one of baseball’s most dependable starters since coming to Philadelphia in 2020. Which is why it was such a shock when he was banged around at Baltimore last Sunday, giving up eight earned runs on nine hits, including a career-high four homers, in 4.1 innings.

Even after all these years, he still uses rare poor outings to fire himself up. “For sure,” he said. “You try to use anything as motivation. It was a bad start last time. So you try to take some things from it but also move on and turn the page.”

He was asked exactly what he’d taken from it.

“Don’t let it happen again,” he responded with a laugh.

Wheeler didn’t allow his first base runner until he hit Walker with a pitch leading off the fifth. Heck, he didn’t allow a ball to be hit out of the infield until Jake McCarthy followed with a clean single to right. His earned run average is now 2.73.

(It’s doubtful that Wheeler threw at Walker on purpose. Not with a perfect game working and the debt, if there was one, seemingly settled. Then again, the Phillies already had a 6-0 lead at that point and Wheeler seems like the kind of guy who would put the team first if he thought it needed to be done.)

Harper, Alec Bohm, Castellanos and David Dahl all homered as the Phillies scored their most runs in a game since putting up two touchdowns against the Giants on May 4. It was the sixth time they’ve scored in double digits, but the first since May 15 against the Mets.

Dahl’s homer came in the eighth off Tucker Barnhart, normally a catcher, who broke out his eephus pitch to help save the bullpen.

NOTABLY: Temperature at first pitch was 97 degrees ... With Saturday’s win, the Phillies became the second club to reach 50 wins this season, joining the Yankees ... They’ve won 26 of their last 31 at home ... Since centerfielder Johan Rojas was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Monday, the Phillies have deployed some unusual defensive alignments to help get the best possible matchups in the lineup. Kyle Schwarber, normally the designated hitter, started in left for just the second time this year on Saturday, which allowed Rob Thomson to put Alec Bohm at DH and keeping Sosa’s bat in the lineup at third, where he started for just the fourth time this year ... Friday night Sosa was at second for the fourth time this year against lefty Jordan Montgomery, allowing Thomson to keep four lefthanded bats on the bench: Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh, David Dahl and Garrett Stubbs ... Set your alarm and get the coffee brewing. It will be Diamondbacks RHP Slade Cecconi (2-5, 5.90) vs. LHP Cristopher Sanchez in a rare 11:35 a.m. start for Sunday’s series finale.

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