When Alec Bohm walked up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning of the Phillies’ 2-0 loss to the New York Mets on Tuesday night, he didn’t know what to expect.
About 24 hours earlier, the Phillies third baseman had one of the worst defensive games of his career, committing three errors in the first three innings. When he made a routine play, he was greeted with sarcastic cheers, to which Bohm responded by turning to shortstop Didi Gregorius and saying “I [expletive] hate this place.”
Television viewers could read his lips, and Bohm had to answer for it after the game. But instead of denying what he’d said, or refusing to talk to the media, he took accountability for his actions.
“Look, emotions got the best of me,” he said on Monday. “I said it. Do I mean it? No. It’s a frustrating night for me. Made a few mistakes in the field. But these people, these fans, they just want to win. You heard it. We come back, they’re great. I’m sorry to them. I don’t mean that.”
The fans rewarded his vulnerability Tuesday night with a gesture of their own. As Bohm stepped up to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Simón Muzziotti, Citizens Bank Park erupted into applause. Many fans were giving Bohm a standing ovation.
“It was cool, it was really cool,” Bohm said. “I appreciated it. At the end of the day, if you have siblings, you fight with your siblings one second, and then you’re best friends again.”
“All they want is transparency. We all want the same thing. We’re all in this together.”
Wheeler bounces back
Phillies starter Zack Wheeler stepped onto the mound in Citizens Bank Park at 6:49 p.m. Tuesday. The Mets’ Brandon Nimmo had the first at-bat. It lasted six pitches — not ideal, for a pitcher trying to be economical — but it ultimately ended in a groundout. Next was Starling Marte, who Wheeler hit with his sinker. Francisco Lindor grounded out, then Wheeler hit Pete Alonso — also with his sinker — and walked Eduardo Escobar. By the end of those five at-bats, he was at 24 pitches.
Wheeler’s season debut was not one would expect from a pitcher who ranked second in NL Cy Young Award voting last year. But Wheeler is coming off the most atypical of offseasons. After contracting the flu in spring training, and battling shoulder soreness over the winter, he hadn’t faced major-league hitters in a game setting until Tuesday.
After a brief mound visit, Wheeler reset. He struck out Robinson Canó to end the first inning, and over the next 3⅔ innings, proceeded to strike out two more batters, while allowing no walks and two hits. The last hit he allowed was a home run, to Nimmo, who by that at-bat had seen Wheeler three times. That was his last batter, and he left after having thrown 65 pitches, 44 of them strikes.
“[In that mound visit] we talked about staying back a little bit more, I was rushing a little bit,” Wheeler said. “It was my first time really in a game situation with guys on and stuff like that, so I was just rushing. My pitches were just flying, so I was just trying to stay back and catch my breath a little bit.”
It wasn’t perfect, or close to perfect, which we’ve become accustomed to getting from Wheeler. But how he responded to that imperfection was the highlight of his night. Almost one exactly year ago, against the Mets, Wheeler had a similar outing. On April 14, 2021, at Citi Field, he gave up two earned runs on three hits, with a hit batsman and a walk in the first inning. By the end of the second inning, he was at 46 pitches.
Wheeler walked back to the dugout that day, looked his pitching coach Caleb Cotham in the eye, and said “I’m going to go seven.” And he almost did; Cotham pulled him after 6⅓ innings.
Coming off an atypical spring, and a shortened spring, Wheeler might not be back to his normal, dominant self for a little while. But if he does encounter more adversity in his next few outings, he will know he has the mental fortitude to handle it.
Reliever Sánchez impresses
Entering Tuesday’s game against the Mets, left-handed reliever Cristopher Sánchez had a total of 12⅔ innings of big-league experience across seven games in 2021. Those games hadn’t gone particularly well; the rookie allowed seven earned runs, 16 hits and seven walks over that span. But his appearance on Tuesday night, his first of 2022, was a completely different story. Sánchez, 25, filled in for Wheeler in the fifth inning and went 2⅓ innings, allowing no hits, no earned runs, one walk and striking out three.
Bats remain cold
The Phillies were hitting the ball hard on Tuesday — five of their hitters posted the top exit velocities of the night, per Baseball Savant — but most of those balls weren’t falling for hits. Before Monday night’s five-run offensive explosion in the eighth inning, the Phillies had only scored one run since Saturday. The bats didn’t warm up much after that; they tallied only five hits and no runs on Tuesday night.
“You’re going to go through that through the course of the season, but that’s not my concern,” manager Joe Girardi said of his team’s recent hitting woes. “We’re just going through a little hard time right now, offensively.”