Phillies Game Story

Wheeler frustrated by his start, still not a fan of extra rest

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ANAHEIM — Zack Wheeler's postgame tone and comments would've led you to believe he was blown up rather than victorious in a series-ending start against the Angels.

What occurred was a perfectly serviceable outing from most pitchers, just not one Zack Wheeler will easily accept.

Five innings, five hits, one run, one walk, six strikeouts and a win. Not bad.

But Wheeler exerted high effort in every inning. His first three were 27, 22 and 25 pitches. He threw at least six pitches to 10 of the 22 hitters he faced. His pitch count soared with 25 foul balls.

Not Zack Wheeler-like.

"Everything," he said when asked what felt off in the Phillies' 2-1 win.

Last Thursday in Cincinnati, Wheeler allowed one hit over six scoreless innings but was displeased with his performance because he walked four. The best of the best demand a lot from themselves. Wheeler's weekly quest for perfection calls to mind Roy Halladay.

He thinks a part of Wednesday's "off" game was the extra rest he received. Wheeler has been vocal in the past about wanting to pitch on regular rest whenever possible. The Phillies gave him an extra day this week and gave Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez two extra days apiece because all of them have carried heavy workloads in the young season and will be relied upon come October. Taijuan Walker returned Sunday in San Diego and the Phils utilized a six-man rotation this week with Spencer Turnbull pitching Tuesday.

"I think it was more just routine this time, having more days rest, not being as sharp, I think that's part of it," Wheeler said.

"Some points in the season you probably need it, but it's just another day of trying to keep that rhythm that I've had going, just another day to try to keep it in sync."

Wheeler does not sound like a man interested in pitching every sixth day rather than every fifth. The Phillies are weighing several options with Turnbull, who has a 1.67 ERA through six mostly brilliant starts. One is a six-man rotation. Another is piggybacking Turnbull and Cristopher Sanchez. Another is alternating Turnbull and Sanchez each cycle. A decision is expected Friday.

Wheeler knows there will continue to be times when an off day gives him an extra day between starts. That's different from his perspective than simply being given additional rest.

"I think it's more of when you have the days when you're here at the field and you're throwing and all that type of stuff. When you take a complete day off, I feel like it doesn't affect you as much," he said.

He took no solace in minimizing damage Wednesday afternoon.

"No, I get nothing out of that," he said. "I got a win for the team. But just forget about that one, I guess.

"You're going to have rough patches. Can't be good all the time. You just have to battle through it. It's part of pitching in the big leagues, it's hard. Just got to fix it. Just trying to get the command a little bit better and today was a little more difficult."

The Phillies would be foolish not to listen to Wheeler given his importance to the team. It wouldn't be surprising if his thoughts on the matter impact the rotation decision later this week. Between Wheeler's preference, Turnbull's excellence, Sanchez' upside and the commitment made to Walker, there's a ton that goes into that decision.

But the bottom line is the Phillies won Wednesday, are 6-0-2 in their last eight series and 21-11 on the season. They're rolling. They're better than most teams on paper and it's played out almost every night the last three weeks.

"I'm really happy with how they're playing," manager Rob Thomson said. "Today wasn't our best day offensively and wasn't Wheels' best day but we grinded through it. That's what you've got to do, you've got to win those types of games when you're not at your best. I think the day off is coming at a perfect time and then we'll get it going again on Friday."

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