MLB Wild Card: Phillies win again, JT Realmuto plays at top level – NBC Sports

MLB Wild Card: Phillies win again, JT Realmuto plays at top level - NBC Sports

Zack Wheeler’s command was gone as he worked through his six innings, but the Phillies are playing so well right now that it didn’t matter. They jumped on the Marlins early, continued to hit the ball hard and played more solid defense in a 4-1 win, their sixth in a row.

You want to stomp on the bad teams early and that’s exactly what the Phillies have done over the last two weeks. They crossed the plate again in the first inning on Tuesday and have outscored their opponents 17-1 in the first inning of their last 11 games.

The Phillies have had their problem with the Marlins for years but not recently. Tuesday’s win was their sixth in the last seven games against Miami.

The Phils are 61-48 after winning 11 of 12. They entered the night with a 92.8% chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball-Reference, and that percentage has only increased.

They never followed a night that included rain delays of 32 and 33 minutes. Wheeler needed 59 pitches to work through the first three scoreless innings before JJ Bleday greeted him with a homer in the fourth. Immediately, JT Realmuto and Jean Segura answered with solo shots to the left.

This is probably the hottest Realmute like Phillie. Over his last 18 games, he hit .400 with five doubles, two triples, six home runs and 19 RBI.

“I always thought (his power) would come back,” manager Rob Thomson said. “He’s so athletic and so strong, he’s in such great shape. It’s going to be a while before that goes away, I would think.”

The Phillies needed all of it with Bryce Harper out and Kyle Schwarber no longer homering at a record pace.

“When he gets that bat going, he’s on a different level,” Wheeler said of his battery mate. “He does all the homework and he’s the best in the game for a reason.

“Even earlier this year when he was struggling a little bit, it was just nice to have him behind the plate. First of all, he calls a fantastic game, I don’t really have to shake him up a lot. Some pitchers like to call their own plays but he’s my play caller for the most part .”

Segura has also been swinging it well the last few nights. He had five hits in six at-bats at one point from Saturday night into Tuesday’s series opener against Miami.

Wheeler, undoubtedly an ace, did what the greats do, limiting damage even without his best stuff. He held the Marlins to one run on five hits over six innings despite walking three. It’s helped that Miami, averaging 1.7 runs over the last 10 games, just can’t hit.

“Maybe back in the day, I wouldn’t have come out of it like I did tonight,” Wheeler said. “It was tough, it was a grind. I felt like when I executed a pitch, everything went well, but when I didn’t, I didn’t know where the ball was going. Just one of those days for me where I was a little out of sync. It was a grind for sure and I was happy to get out of there with six innings.”

Despite feeling out, Wheeler improved to 11-5 with a 2.63 ERA through 21 starts.

This was an important win for the Phillies given how the rest of their week is shaping up. They face Sandy Alcantara on Wednesday, Max Scherzer on Friday and Jacob deGrom on Saturday. It doesn’t get much easier Sunday against Chris Bassitt, who has fired 19 straight scoreless innings for the Mets.

This week will be a tough test but one that an opposing team should welcome. Gotta beat the best to be the best.

“It’s a challenge we can’t avoid,” Thomson said. “We’re facing some real good pitchers the next six days. We just have to take the same approach we’ve been taking — get good pitches to hit and just battle.”

As has been the theme for weeks, the Phils got contributions all over the place Tuesday night. Schwarber, Realmuto and Segura had multi-hit games. Alec Bohm drove in a run and scored on Realmuto’s first-inning double. Edmundo Sosa has made several difficult plays look easy at shortstop and has been so touted defensively thus far. Jose Alvarado, David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez combined for three scoreless innings to close it out.

The Phillies look to win another series Wednesday night against Alcantara (10-4, 1.88) and the Marlins as Noah Syndergaard (6-8, 4.02) makes his second start with the team.

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