Zack Wheeler stops Phillies' losing streak while hitting several big milestones


They hadn't won a game since the last time Zack Wheeler pitched, but with their ace on the hill the Phillies snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday night with a relatively smooth 6-1 win over the Rockies.

Wheeler started and gave up one run over 6⅔ innings. The National League Cy Young candidate is 13-9 with a 2.86 ERA in 29 starts, leads the majors in innings pitched and the National League in strikeouts.

Wheeler matched his career-high in innings Saturday, reaching 195⅓ for the season on the same night he recorded the 1,000th strikeout of his big-league career. The 13 wins are also a career-high.

He has four starts remaining.

The Phillies gained a game on the Braves, who lost to the Marlins. The Phils are 3½ games back in the NL East at 72-70 with 20 games to go.

Wheeler entered the seventh at just 76 pitches but lost his control with two walks and an errant throw to second base in the inning. He left with two outs, the bases loaded and the Phillies up by three runs. Jose Alvarado entered and picked up the most important out of the game, a Charlie Blackmon groundout to end the threat.

Inserting the often wild Alvarado into a bases-loaded jam can be a dicey proposition, but his control has been better of late. Alvarado has not walked a batter in six of his last eight appearances.

"That’s a huge out because if Alvy doesn’t get it, then he’s facing a couple of righties who hit lefties pretty good," manager Joe Girardi said, referencing Brendan Rodgers and Trevor Story.


"He’s gone through streaks like that for us before and I’ve got a lot of confidence in Alvy when he throws strikes because his stuff is filthy. I just felt that Wheels was at the end of his rope."

The Phillies got on the board with three runs in the fourth inning. Jean Segura opened the frame with a single, and the middle of the order exercised patience against left-hander Kyle Freeland with Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and Didi Gregorius all drawing walks. Gregorius’ came with the bases loaded.

The biggest play in the inning was a two-out, bases-loaded bunt down the third-base line from Odubel Herrera. Third baseman Ryan McMahon was playing off the line and had to travel a long way to charge it, missing the ball as it went beneath his hand and rolled past him into shallow left field. It ended up being scored a two-run double for Herrera. McMahon is a fantastic defensive player but he had no shot at getting an out and should have made sure the ball didn’t squirt past him.

"It was big," Wheeler said. "I don’t think anyone really expected it except maybe Odubel. Perfectly placed bunt. That was big for us, a big momentum-booster. That’s the kind of stuff we need."

Herrera hit eighth against the lefty Freeland. Rookie Matt Vierling, playing first base Saturday, led off for the first time in his young career. 

The Phils tacked on another run an inning later on Segura’s 12th home run of the season. Segura had three of the six hardest-hit balls of the night for either team -- a 112 mph homer, a 110 mph groundout and a 107 mph single.

The final two runs came on seventh-inning solo shots from pinch-hitter Brad Miller (18) and Harper (31).

Harper also hit Segura on a perfect relay throw to nail C.J. Cron at the plate to end the top of the eighth inning.

The Phillies and Rockies finish their four-game series Sunday afternoon when Aaron Nola (7-8, 4.57) opposes rookie right-hander Ryan Feltner, who allowed six runs in 2⅔ innings in his MLB debut against the Braves last weekend. The Phils are then off Monday before hosting the lowly Cubs for three games.

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