Phillies Game Story

Wheeler out of sync vs. Marlins but avoids excuses after erratic outing

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MIAMI — Provided a three-run lead against baseball's worst offense before stepping foot on the mound Sunday afternoon, Zack Wheeler had one of his worst starts as a Phillie in a surprising 7-6 loss to the Marlins.

Wheeler was erratic, missing low, missing high and off both sides of the plate. By the time he recorded the first out of the fourth inning, he'd already walked three and hit a batter. Those free bases played a large role when the Marlins rallied in the second, third and fourth innings.

The biggest blow was Josh Bell's three-run homer in the bottom the third, which turned a two-run Phillies lead into a deficit. Wheeler encountered more trouble in the bottom of the fourth, hitting Vidal Brujan with an 0-2 slider to begin a two-run inning.

He lasted just four innings, throwing 80 pitches and putting 10 men on base.

The Phillies scored three runs in the top of the sixth to come back and tie the game, but both offenses went silent until reserve infielder Emmanuel Rivera grounded a bouncing ball off Gregory Soto's backside for a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th.

"They were just being really aggressive today," Wheeler said. "I wasn't commanding the ball like I wanted to and they got me. I had an off-day.

"I felt great, nothing felt out of whack, so I had a hard time fixing it just because I didn't feel anything. Most of the time when you're doing that kind of stuff, you feel something, like you're pulling off and try to make the adjustment."

Backup catcher Garrett Stubbs caught Wheeler for just the sixth time in three seasons because J.T. Realmuto was scratched in the morning with a sore right knee. Realmuto would have been available in case of emergency Sunday and his status for Monday at Citi Field is TBD.

Wheeler and Stubbs had a few issues getting synced up in certain moments. On one pitch, Wheeler shook him off four times, resulting in a mound visit. In a very small sample of 34⅓ innings with Stubbs, he has a 6.29 ERA compared to 2.91 in 578 innings with Realmuto.

Wheeler didn't want to use that as an excuse.

"Kinda, but it is what it is," he said. "I throw with J.T. all the time but it's not the end of the world. (Stubbs and I) were both on the same page for the most part but it's just different scenarios where I like to do certain things and he's just not used to it.

"But this one wasn't on Stubby at all, it was on me, I threw a lot of balls. That's on me."

The Marlins' game-changing third inning came after a long bottom of the second for Wheeler followed by a rapid, eight-pitch inning for Braxton Garrett against Alec Bohm, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos. Harper and Castellanos made outs on the first pitch and Wheeler was right back out there. That's usually a challenge for a pitcher and particularly in the pitch-clock era with fewer ways to buy time.

"I don't want these guys to change from their game plan, but I mean, yeah, it was a little hot and humid and you really aren't used to it," Wheeler said. "It comes up on you quick, but I don't want them to change what they're doing. It's up to me to kind of deal with it, get back out there, throw strikes and get outs."

He still has a 2.53 ERA through nine starts, which speaks to how well he pitched the first eight times. Wheeler's next start will be Friday at home against the Nationals.

The Phillies (28-13) scored first for the 29th time this season on Castellanos' first-inning three-run homer. He's hit three since April 30, all on the first pitch.

This is an ideal time for Castellanos and Bryson Stott to be hot with Trea Turner (hamstring strain) out another month and Kyle Schwarber (lower back soreness) Realmuto (sore right knee) out of Sunday's lineup.

Castellanos is riding an eight-game hitting streak and has hit .263/.344/.526 over his last 15.

Stott reached base all five times Sunday with a single, double, three walks and two steals. He's hit .412/.553/.765 over his last 11 games with seven extra-base hits, 13 RBI, 11 walks and six strikeouts.

The Phillies also received good production this weekend from shortstop Edmundo Sosa, who has reached base in 13 of 28 plate appearances with a double, two triples, five RBI and eight runs scored since Turner went down with a hamstring strain.

Sosa bobbled a tailor-made double-play ball in the Marlins' three-run third, but he also made two fantastic defensive plays later in the game and his two-run triple in the sixth helped the Phils come back.

The Phillies lost the finale but won the series. They head to New York unbeaten in their last 11 series (8-0-3).

"It's frustrating," Wheeler said. "You obviously want to keep it going and give the team a win, but I just didn't have it today. The guys fought back and that's what good teams do, they pick you up. Just weren't able to finish it.

"We're in good shape. We won the series and that's our goal, win every series. Dropping one (game) here and there, we'll take it."

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