PHILADELPHIA — Zack Wheeler collected more hits than he allowed Saturday.
That’s a good recipe for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wheeler, a former Met, struck out 10 while pitching seven innings of one-hit ball, leading the Phillies to a 4-0 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Wheeler retired his final 17 batters after Travis d’Arnaud singled with one out in the second. He also singled in Jean Segura in the fifth and doubled home Alec Bohm in the sixth.
Wheeler mixed a fastball that reached the high 90s with a sinker that had the Braves off balance. The 10 strikeouts were the most by Wheeler since signing with the Phillies in December 2019.
“When you have everything working — fastball, change, curve, slider — and you are placing it where you want to, it makes things a lot easier,” Wheeler said.
“That’s as good as I’ve seen him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That was a rough day trying to hit (Wheeler).”
Wheeler’s strong start — teamed with Aaron Nola’s solid outing in Philadelphia’s victory on opening day — highlights the potential for the top of the Phillies’ rotation.
“I don’t know if you can say enough great things about what (Wheeler) did today,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He threw some good changeups late in the game. It’s as good as his stuff has been.”
Archie Bradley and Héctor Neris each worked a perfect inning after Wheeler (1-0) departed. It marked back-to-back scoreless outings for Philadelphia’s bullpen, which posted a historically inept 7.06 ERA in 2020.
Wheeler put the Phillies ahead to stay with his run-scoring single in the fifth against Charlie Morton (0-1). Andrew McCutchen then walked and Rhys Hoskins made it 3-0 with a two-run double.
Wheeler is the first Phillies pitcher with multiple hits and RBIs in a game since Ben Lively on Sept. 5, 2017. He was allowed back in the box after the National League reverted back to letting pitchers hit this year. The designated hitter was used in both leagues for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
“I had one at-bat in the spring before we got shut down (in spring 2020) and one this spring,” Wheeler said. “But we’re hitting a lot in the cage. As a pitcher, you are going to see a fastball. You just have to be able to hit it.”
Morton allowed six hits, struck out five and walked two in five innings. He permitted each of his three runs in the fifth, a rally that started with a two-out single by Segura and Roman Quinn reaching when he was hit by a pitch.
“That two-strike curveball to Segura wasn’t a well-executed pitch, especially to an aggressive hitter,” Morton said. “The Wheeler hit, I couldn’t believe he got to that. I just have to do a better job on a two-strike count. The guys did a great job behind me, but I kind of squandered it there.”