Phillies' bats shut down by Stripling as date vs. Kershaw is up next

Phillies' bats shut down by Stripling as date vs. Kershaw is up next


LOS ANGELES — Phillies hitters were dominated by Ross Stripling.

Good luck against Clayton Kershaw.

Stripling began the season in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen then moved into the rotation earlier this month when injuries mounted on the staff. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball and struck out nine Phillies to lead the Dodgers to an 8-2 win on Wednesday night (see first take).

“Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opposition,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Ross Striping was tremendous today. He kept us off-balance all night. He mixed his pitches well. The cutter-slider thing was working really effectively. He mixed it with the curveball. He was good. He was on his game. We had trouble making the adjustment.”

The Dodgers have won 10 of their last 13 games, including two of three against the Phillies. The Phils need a win Thursday to earn a series split, but it won’t be easy as Kershaw will come off the disabled list — he’s been down for a month with biceps tendinitis — to make the start. Stripling has 11 big-league wins. Kershaw has three National League Cy Young awards and five ERA titles. So the assignment will be a lot tougher for the Phillies on Thursday night. The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola, one of their top starters.

“Obviously we have two very good pitchers on the mound,” Kapler said. “As a baseball fan, I'm very excited about that matchup. As a Phillie, I'm very excited about facing the best.”

The Phillies are 30-23. They entered the game in third place in the NL East, just a game behind first-place Atlanta and a half game behind second-place Washington. Atlanta lost its game against the Mets while Washington defeated Baltimore. So the Nationals are now in first place in the division, a half game up on Atlanta and the Phillies are in third, 1½ games back.

Starter Zach Eflin was hit hard. He gave up a run in the first inning and three in the third on a solo homer, a walk and another homer. He lasted just four innings and gave up seven hits and a walk. He struck out five.

“I threw some good pitches, I threw some bad pitches,” Eflin said. “They took advantage of my bad pitches and they hit some good pitches, so it’s just one of those days where I’m not going to look back and say I did bad or I did horrible. I had really good stuff today. It’s just one of those days where I got hit around.”

Eflin came up from Triple A on May 1 and gave up just one run over 12 2/3 innings in his first two starts. Since then, he has made three starts and been tagged for 19 hits and 12 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings. Eflin has been given the chance to lock down the fifth spot in the rotation, but he’s hardly done that. Meanwhile, Cole Irvin and Enyel De Los Santos are pitching well at Triple A if the Phils look to make a change.

“We're constantly evaluating our players,” Kapler said. “We're constantly making determinations on what happens next. That's something — we're not there yet. Next couple of days, we'll be thinking about that.”

With Rhys Hoskins likely headed to the disabled list (see story), Nick Williams will get more regular playing time. He homered for the fifth time in his last 15 games for the Phillies’ first run of the game.

“I think he deserves an opportunity to get a good look here,” Kapler said.

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.

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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news


At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies