How different would Sunday’s 4-2 win have felt in New York had the Phillies been able to reverse their last three losses? The Phils flew Sunday night to Cincinnati with two wins in their last six games. They not only blew leads in their last three losses, but they blew saves, too. They’re three games below .500 and five games out of first place.
The Phillies, if they were able to finish games last week, could be three games above .500 and inching toward first place. Remember this week if they’re fighting for a playoff spot in September. What a difference a couple of outs can make.
“At least we got the split, right?” Zack Wheeler said after pitching seven shutout innings Sunday. “We could have come out of here a little better than we did. We need to be a little more consistent all around. We have the team. We have the guys. We just need to be a little more consistent.”
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Zack Wheeler is an All-Star lock, but no other Phillies are
The Phillies were starting to campaign earlier this month for Jean Segura to make the All-Star Game as the second baseman presented the team with its best shot to finally send multiple players to baseball’s summer showcase.
Wheeler already seemed like a lock to represent the Phils next month in Colorado, but Segura, who was off to a career-best start, could have used a boost.
Two days later, he was placed on the injured list because of a groin strain that all but ended his All-Star chances. The teams will be announced Sunday and the Phillies will likely have just one player — the minimum every team is mandated to receive — on the National League squad for the seventh straight season.
Since 2014, the Phillies are the only team in baseball not to have at least one year of sending multiple players to the All-Star Game. There have been 227 National League players selected to the game since 2014, and just seven have been Phillies.
Wheeler locked up his case Sunday by pitching seven shutout innings against the Mets in a 4-2 win. He’s tied for the major-league lead in strikeouts (130), is second by an out in innings (106 1/3), and has the seventh-best ERA (2.20) in the National League.
“It would be pretty cool,” Wheeler said of making the All-Star team for the first time. “It’s something that you’ve always kind of worked for and all that stuff. I’ve always had iffy first halves, so to get out on the right foot and just keep it rolling, it feels pretty good.”
Last season was the first time Wheeler had an ERA of less than 3.00 in the first half of a season. But there was no All-Star Game in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. From 2013 to 2019, Wheeler had a 3.77 ERA in the first half of the season.
In the second half, his ERA was 2.90 over those same five seasons with the Mets, as he didn’t pitch in 2015 and 2016. Wheeler’s 1.68 ERA in 11 starts in the second half of 2018 was the third best among NL starters. He was a second-half All-Star, but that didn’t help him make the NL team.
“I don’t know,” Wheeler said when asked why this first half has been so good. “My arm path, just fixing that has just allowed me to be more consistent with my pitches and with my command. Just working with [pitching coach] Caleb Cotham with my off-speed and stuff, it’s definitely helped. Just all around, everything together has definitely helped.”
Bryce Harper advanced Sunday to the final round of fan voting to determine the starting lineup, but he finished seventh among National League outfielders in the first round and is unlikely to crack the top three.
Andrew McCutchen has had a terrific June, but his slow start to the season likely cost him an All-Star nod.
J.T. Realmuto, the team’s lone All-Star in 2019, has the fourth-most WAR among NL catchers and has the third-best batting average, fifth-best on-base percentage, fifth-best slugging percentage, and sixth-most homers. The NL carried three catchers in 2019, and Realmuto could have a chance to make it again.
Segura still leads NL second basemen in average and is fourth in on-base percentage and fourth in wRC+. But he’s expected to be on the injured list Sunday when the rosters are announced. If Segura was healthy, he seemed to be the favorite to join Wheeler in Colorado.
“If I can make a plug: This is an All-Star. We need to vote this guy in,” manager Joe Girardi said on June 14 of Segura. “We have a lot of Phillies fans wherever we go. So, I don’t do this very often but, to me, he deserves to go to the All-Star Game. And I hope he gets voted in.”
A night later, Segura left the game with a strained groin. He was placed the following day on the injured list, and the Phillies said the injury would cost him roughly three weeks. So far, he’s been out for nearly two.
That leaves Wheeler as the only Phillies player with a solid All-Star case. And if he’s the only one to make it, the Phillies will be used to it.
“To me, there’s no question that he’s an All-Star pitcher this year,” Girardi said. “There’s no question for me. I mean, I don’t know how you can pitch much better. I know there are some people with lower ERAs, but I don’t know how you can pitch much better than him. You know, [the Mets’ Jacob] deGrom being one of them. You look at the innings that he’s logged and how deep he’s gotten in games for us and he saves our bullpen. I mean, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the game.”
Wheeler’s gem Sunday gave the Phillies a needed 4-2 win over the Mets to split the four-game series. He helped not only with his arm but his legs, too.
The Phillies are unsure if Bryce Harper will play Monday night after he left Saturday night’s game with a leg injury. Girardi said after Sunday’s win that Harper is “day to day.”
Scott Kingery spoke Friday for the first time since being designated for assignment. He said being removed from the 40-man roster was a positive as it will give him the consistent playing time he thinks is necessary for him to return to form.
Today: Spencer Howard faces left-hander Wade Miley in Cincinnati, 6:40 p.m.
Tomorrow: Phils return home as Vince Velasquez faces the Marlins, 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Matt Moore or Aaron Nola is expected to start against Marlins right-hander Cody Poteet, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: The Phillies and Marlins finish the three-game series, 6:05 p.m.
Friday: The Padres come to town for three games, 6:05 p.m.
Stat of the day
The Phillies’ representation has been light in recent years at the All-Star Game, but the team has sent five players to the game six times. The Phils had a franchise-record five All-Stars in 1976, 1979, 1981, 1995, 2009, and 2011.
In 1976, the Phillies were represented at Veterans Stadium by Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, Dave Cash, Greg Luzinski, and Mike Schmidt. For the Phils, the highlight was the pregame introductions when the crowd booed the five Reds who were in the starting lineup and chanted “We Want Boone” when Johnny Bench was introduced.
“It’s funny when you go out and get cheered and then Johnny Bench goes out and gets booed,” said Luzinski, who was the lone Phillies player in the starting lineup and the player introduced before Bench.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.
Question: Is Matt Moore in the rotation now? I think he should be! — Rog R. via email
Answer: Thanks, Rog. Moore will start again this week for the Phillies, but his place in the rotation is not yet solidified. Girardi said Moore will make another start, but did not commit to when that start will actually be. He was impressive Friday night against the Mets.