PHILADELPHIA – Zach Wheeler has carried a bitter taste in his mouth for nearly a year.
He was pulled in the sixth inning in Game 6 of the 2022 World Series, despite leading 1-0. He was throwing so well at the time that JT Realmuto said he had “bolts of lightning coming out of his hands.” But the hook came, Yordan Alvarez hit the ball to the moon and the Phillies’ season in Houston was over.
Wheeler wants to replace that painful memory with a happy one that saw him lift the World Series trophy. He took his first step Tuesday night with a dominating performance in a 4-1 win over Miami in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies can win a best-of-three series with a win Wednesday night.
Wheeler allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and allowing five hits.
He probably had the best stuff of the season. His average fastball velocity was 96.8 mph, 1.0 mph above his season average. He had his best sweeper, too. It’s a pitch Wheeler started throwing in spring training, hoping to give hitters something else to consider as they try to overcome one of baseball’s best pitchers.
Wheeler had never struck out more than three batters in a game with his reliever until Tuesday, when he struck out five.
The Phillies blanked Marlins left-hander Jesus Luzardo, who allowed three runs on eight hits in four innings. Alec Bohm scored a brace in the third period and Johan Rojas scored to make the score 1-0. Bryson Stott and Christian Pasch scored a couple of runs in the fourth inning to make it 3-0. The Phils added an insurance run in the eighth when Nick Castellanos doubled to score Bryce Harper.
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