Phillies Game Story

Wheeler rocked for 4 homers as Phillies lose another road series 

Wheeler had never allowed four home runs in a game before Sunday's defeat to the Orioles.

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BALTIMORE – Once again, all the ingredients were neatly laid out for a gourmet ballpark experience. Two of the best teams in the game, Phillies and Orioles, going head-to-head. Check. Gorgeous weather at a classic venue, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Check. A consistent buzz from the sold-out crowd that was fully aware that they could be viewing a World Series prelude. Check. Adding to the party vibe were occasional fighter jet flyovers from a nearby air show.

And, as a bonus, a marquee pitching matchup between a pair of Cy Young Award candidates, Zack Wheeler in the Phillies road grays and Corbin Burnes representing the home O’s. What could have been better?

Well, Wheeler, now that you mention it.

The Phillies’ Opening Day starter, who started the day with a 2.16 earned run average — Burnes was at 2.08 — was rocked for four homers Sunday for the first time in his career. He gave up 8 runs in his 4.1 innings. It was, by any measure, his least effective outing of the year.

The final score was 8-3. The Phillies have lost five of their last seven.

“It was just command, really,” said manager Rob Thomson, who was ejected in the sixth inning while arguing that catcher Garrett Stubbs had been hit by a pitch. “All four of those pitches were right down the middle of the plate. He doesn’t usually do that.”

Said Wheeler: “I felt great, actually. That’s what’s frustrating about it. It was just one of those days. It stinks. But you have to give people credit sometimes.”

Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson led off the bottom of the first with a home run one pitch after Wheeler thought he’d struck him out on a 2-2 sinker that home plate ump Mike Estabrook called a ball. Replays appeared to clearly show that the ball caught the upper inside corner of the zone.

“It was probably a borderline pitch. I heard that it was a strike, but I didn’t know it at the time,” Wheeler said calmly. “Sometimes umpires are going to miss calls and something bad is going to happen. That’s just the way the ball rolls sometimes and you can’t worry about it. You just have to put your head down and keep going.”

The Phillies lost two out of three to the Orioles and were outscored 17-10 in the process.

Don’t look now, but the Phillies have gone just 10-10 since opening a road trip to Colorado and San Francisco on May 24. There’s no reason for panic at the moment; only an epic fail will keep them from qualifying for the playoffs thanks to the cushion they built by winning 29 of 35 (.826) from April 15 through May 23. But, still ...

There are several possible explanations for this dip. The most obvious is also the simplest, almost always offered with a shrug: That’s baseball. The Phillies are good, but no team can be expected to stay as hot as they were indefinitely.

Then there’s the possibility that Delayed Jet Lag Syndrome has messed with their circadian rhythms after the schedule dictated that they crisscross 18 time zones, including a quick stop in London, in a matter of 17 days. Or that having three open dates in five days threw their normal routines impossibly out of whack. Or just the plain fact that they haven’t played at home in almost two weeks.

The bottom line is that both the pitching and hitting have both taken a giant step backward recently.

Coming out of London, the rotation’s aggregate ERA was 2.66. In six games since, it’s 7.18.

The bullpen, so good for so long, has been scored on in five of the last seven games.

The Phillies have been held to three or fewer runs 20 times this year. Nine of those occasions have occurred in their last 20 games. Prior to that, they had scored four or more in 18 of 19 games.

They also continue to hold an 8-game lead over Atlanta in the National League East.

“We’ve had a lot of travel,” Thomson said. “It feels like we’ve been gone for a month. Now we go home to play in front of our fan base and get back to playing baseball. We feel good about our club and where we’re at. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got to play well and I expect that we will.”

UP NEXT: The Phillies return to Citizens Bank for the first time since June 5 with a three-game series against the Padres. The matchups: RHP Randy Vasquez (1-3, 4.93) vs. LHP Cristopher Sanchez (3-3, 3.07) Monday at 6:40 p.m., RHP Michael King (5-4, 3.58) vs. RHP Aaron Nola (8-3, 3.48) Tuesday at 6:40 p.m., and RHP Matt Waldron (4-6, 3.66) vs. LHP Ranger Suarez (10-1, 1.77) Wednesday at 1:05 p.m.

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