Phillies look to Wheeler and then Hoskins to help right ship


At least the Phillies are in the right place.

The desert.

Because their offense continues to run dry.

They produced just four hits in Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Diamondbacks in Arizona. The Phils have lost two in a row to the worst team in the National League and they have just seven hits in those two games.

Zack Wheeler will start the series finale for the Phils on Thursday afternoon.

“We’ve got to find a way to get him some runs,” manager Joe Girardi said.

The euphoria that the Phillies created by starting the month of August with eight straight wins and surging into first place in the NL East has been replaced by frustration and despair. The Phillies have lost six of their last eight games to fall out of first place. They trail the first-place Atlanta Braves by 3 ½ games.

The Braves, playing without superstar Ronald Acuna Jr., are 13-3 in the month of August. They have swept the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins, both division foes, in consecutive series and will look to clean up against the woeful Baltimore Orioles over the weekend. The Orioles have the worst record in the majors.

While the Braves play three against a team that isn’t even trying to win, the Phillies will move on to San Diego to play a Padres team that needs every win it can get as it tries to overcome its pitching problems and win the NL wild card.

The Padres feature MVP candidate Fernando Tatis Jr. He has two doubles and three homers in four games since coming off the injured list.


The Phillies’ offense could receive a boost for the Padres series as Rhys Hoskins is expected to return from the disabled list. He has not played since Aug. 5 due to a groin strain. 

Hoskins leads the Phillies with 24 homers and 68 RBIs. The Phillies need him back in the middle of their order. Over the last eight games, the team has just five homers and is averaging 2.4 runs per game. The team batting average in the last eight games is .177 and the team OPS is .553.

Bryce Harper is hitting just .174 (4 for 23) and J.T. Realmuto .136 (3 for 22) over the last eight games. Having Hoskins back in the middle could help them.

But first there’s a game to play Thursday in Arizona. The Phils could not beat a guy (Humberto Castellanos) making his second big-league start on Wednesday night. How will they fare against a guy making his 314th big-league start? Lefty Madison Bumgarner is not the guy he was when he was helping the San Francisco Giants win three World Series, but he’s racked up six quality starts (at least six innings, three or fewer earned runs) in a row.

Wheeler, meanwhile, has just three quality starts in his last seven starts. One of them was an 11-strikeout shutout of the Mets. Given the way the offense is going, Wheeler might need to pitch a shutout for the Phillies to salvage a win in the series.