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Is Zack Wheeler a risky bet in Wednesday return to Phillies?

Zack Wheeler is back, but what should you make of his return?

Zack Wheeler last pitched on August 20 in an 8-2 loss to the New York Mets. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Zack Wheeler last pitched on August 20 in an 8-2 loss to the New York Mets. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)Read moreRich Schultz / Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays played a baseball game Tuesday night, despite what that busy box score looks like. The Phillies lost by a touchdown (and extra point), 18-11, and were lucky to have the Milwaukee Brewers blow a lead to the New York Mets to keep the Phillies 2 1/2 games up on the Brewers for the final National League playoff spot.

The loss made it five in a row for the flopping Phils, who have picked the worst time on the calendar for a slide. They’ll get a boost of energy Wednesday night in the second of a two-game set with the visiting Blue Jays when Zack Wheeler makes his return to the mound for the first time since August 20.

The Phillies badly need Wheeler and the rest of the rotation to get back on track for the final stretch. Will that start Wednesday night? Let’s dive into how you should bet Wheeler’s return.

Phillies vs. Blue Jays odds (courtesy of FanDuel)

Moneyline: Phillies (-112) vs. Blue Jays (-104)

Run line: Phillies +1.5 (-192) vs. Blue Jays -1.5 (+158)

Total: Over 8.5 runs (-102) | Under 8.5 runs (-120)


Phillies first half (5 innings) result* (+125)

* Result wagers are three-way results that include tie scores.

Probable pitchers and analysis

Phillies RHP Zack Wheeler (11-7, 3.07 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) vs. Blue Jays RHP Kevin Gausman (12-10, 3.45 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

The Phillies have really missed Wheeler over the last month, and his return to the rotation couldn’t come at a better time for a team that desperately needs a win.

Wheeler, who was sidelined with right forearm tendinitis, will be on a pitch count Wednesday night as the Phillies try to get him ready to pitch in the playoffs (assuming they don’t complete this September collapse and miss the postseason). The Phillies moved Noah Syndergaard into the bullpen with Wheeler back, and Syndergaard, who has not been the dominant strikeout artist he was earlier in his career, will be backing up Wheeler out of the bullpen Wednesday night.

It’s tough to guess what kind of Wheeler the Phillis will be getting. The righty lost his last two outings before hitting the injured list, both against his former team, the Mets. In those two starts combined, Wheeler allowed 10 runs on 14 hits across 11 1/3 innings. He’s being welcomed back to the mound to face a Blue Jays team that is smacking the seams off of baseballs. Toronto is 5-2 over its last seven games and has 46 runs over that stretch. The Blue Jays had 21 hits off Phillies pitching Tuesday night.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

Toronto, which is pretty locked into a wild card spot at 84-64, sends Gausman to the mound Wednesday night with the righty looking to get back on track after a few rough outings. Gausman, 31, is having another solid season. But he has given up two home runs in each of his previous two starts, and has surrendered 10 runs over his last 12 1/3 innings of work. Gausman got hit around a bit in the middle of September last season, too.

Which Gausman will we get? Which Wheeler will we get? It’s a weird game to try to handicap.

From this view: this spot is why the Phillies added a pitcher of Wheeler’s caliber to their rotation in 2020, to pitch in meaningful September games. Surely, he knows what the Phillies need out of him tonight. And the Phillies know this would be the worst time to extend their losing streak to six games, the longest of the season.

FanDuel is offering some good value Wednesday night on the Phillies to be ahead after five innings. Bet on Wheeler to pitch well, the Phillies’ bats to get to Gausman for a few runs, and get out of there while you can.

» READ MORE: Why Game 160 should be the deadline for the Phillies to clinch a playoff berth

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