Phillies

Was that the Phillies’ worst loss ever to the Marlins?

Was that the Phillies’ worst loss ever to the Marlins?

A few things about Friday night’s loss, which was inarguably the Phillies’ worst of the season and maybe their worst loss ever to the Marlins.

What happened last night should never happen. The Marlins are a pitiful offense that entered Friday night ranked last in the majors in OPS and 29th in runs scored.

At home, in massive Marlins Park, Miami had been averaging 3.9 runs and 2.4 extra-base hits per game. Against the Phillies Friday night, the Marlins scored 19 and had seven extra-base hits.

Ignominious records

The Marlins came into existence in 1993. Never in those 27 years had the Phillies given up 19 runs to Miami. The 19 hits were also the most the Phillies have ever allowed to the Marlins.

The meltdown

Last night was the first game in recorded Phillies history that they led by at least seven runs and lost by at least seven.

Considering the Marlins had scored more than seven runs only 10 times in their previous 126 games, it had to feel in the moment like a slam-dunk win. And yet ...

The 8-run deficit

These teams have met 449 times. The Phillies have suffered a loss by more than eight runs just eight times. In other words, it’s happened once every 56 meetings.

The big picture

The Phillies are fighting for their playoff lives. The Marlins are 46-81 and on pace to lose 103 games.

The Phillies had just come off an improbable two-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway. The next two opponents after that are the two worst teams in the NL: Miami and Pittsburgh. If ever the opportunity for that elusive five-game win streak existed, it was now. Now, the Phillies will need to win the next two in Miami and sweep the Pirates to achieve that.

Consider also that the teams the Phillies are chasing continue to win.

The Nationals have won 8 of 10, scored 81 runs in their last seven games and have separated themselves from the wild-card pack. The Phillies trail the Nats by 4.5 games.

The Mets lost in extra innings to the Braves Friday night but had won five in a row before that. They’re 21-5 since July 25.

The Cardinals have won 7 of 10 to move a half-game ahead of the Cubs for the NL Central lead. For the Phillies to make the playoffs, they’ll need to catapult both the Mets and whichever NL Central team does not win the division.

The Phillies just aren’t as good as the teams they’re chasing. Here are the playoff odds per team, according to Fangraphs as of today. These take into account each team’s remaining schedule and projected performance.

Nationals: 93%

Cubs: 76%

Cardinals: 57%

Mets: 46%

Brewers: 17%

Phillies: 8%

The Marlins are 11-36 against the Braves, Nationals and Mets. Over a full season, that is a 38-124 pace.

And yet the Marlins are 8-6 against the Phillies. They have outscored the Phillies by one run and been outscored by 149 runs when facing anyone else.

Simply unacceptable. Friday counted as one loss by definition but looked and felt much worse than that in the bigger picture.

We all said entering the season that success against the Marlins could determine the NL East. Well, everyone but the Phillies has done what they’re supposed to do against this lowly Miami team. If/when the Phillies miss the playoffs, their 2019 performance against Miami will be one of the main storylines we remember from this frustrating season.

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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

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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



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