Phillies waste Wheeler's gem — ‘We're all upset by this, we need to play better'


All the talk in spring training was about how good this offense was going to be, how the lineup was going to be deep and dangerous.

But 25 games into the season, the Phillies have been shut out three times and held to one run four times.


"Yes," Nick Castellanos said.

On Wednesday night, the Phils were shut out and held to one run all in the same game. The Phils and Texas Rangers played scoreless ball for nine innings before the Rangers pushed across two runs in the top of the 10th. The Phillies could only muster one in the bottom of the frame in suffering their third straight defeat.

The 2-1 loss left the Phillies at a very disappointing 11-14. They were swept in the two-game series by a Rangers club that came to town with an 8-14 record. The Phils have won just two of eight series. Two of their series losses have come against the New York Mets, who are back in town Thursday night.

"We need to play better," manager Joe Girardi said. "We need to find ways to win games and win series. We need to play better.

"These guys come out and work hard every day. They're pissed. We're all upset about this. But they have the ability to do it and I believe they're going to do it."

Wednesday night's loss was particularly galling because the Phils wasted an absolute gem from starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. The right-hander delivered 7 2/3 shutout innings. He scattered six hits, walked one and struck out seven. His fastball was up to 97.5 mph and averaged 96.2. Of his 78 pitches, he got 16 swings and misses, 11 on his four-seam fastball.

"Tough loss to swallow," Wheeler admitted.

The Phils had just six hits in this game, one for extra bases. They were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the first nine innings, 0 for 7 for the game.

Girardi was met with calls of "No … No … No …," and booed lustily when he removed a cruising Wheeler at 78 pitches with two outs in the eighth, but lefty Jose Alvarado, called on to face lefty-hitting Nathaniel Lowe, made the manager look good with a quick out to end the frame.

"I know Joe was looking out for me," said Wheeler, whose previous high for the season was six innings. "It was catching up with me."

Wheeler and Texas lefty Martin Perez hooked up in a fast-moving pitchers' duel. Perez held the Phillies to just four hits over seven shutout innings. He walked four and struck out four.

One night after making two errors that contributed to a 6-4 loss, third baseman Alec Bohm made the game's standout defensive play to end the top of the seventh and keep the game scoreless.

The Phillies thought they had won it when Rhys Hoskins launched a drive to the warning track in the bottom of the ninth. The ball came off the bat at 105 mph and died a few feet before the wall. 

"I stood up with my hands over my head," Castellanos said.

"I thought it was gone," Girardi added.

The Rangers scored two in the top of the 10th against Brad Hand on a hit by Brad Miller, the former Phillie. The Phillies scored just one, on a groundout, in their half of the inning. Both teams started with a runner on second.

"I'm still not a fan of (commissioner Rob) Manfred's extra-innings rule," Wheeler said. "Two teams battling it out and it comes down to that."

Castellanos nearly homered in the sixth. He ended up with a fan-interference double on a ball that would have hit the top of the right-field wall.

"I wish I had an answer, I really do," Castellanos said of the inconsistency that the Phillies have shown on offense. "Sometimes in baseball, there are no answers. All you can do is focus on tomorrow."

And that means the first-place Mets, who have already beaten the Phillies in four of six meetings this season.

"As a group, we feel like our process is good," Hoskins said. "Our work in the cage and in BP is where it needs to be. Sometimes the game can be cruel. I don't think any of us are going to waver. We have a good plan as a team. We just have to hope the ball hits the grass a little more."

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