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Zack Wheeler takes hill as Phillies, Braves start 4-game set

Sportsnaut
Apr 28, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran right-hander Zack Wheeler will try to keep his streak of strong starts going on Monday when the visiting Philadelphia Phillies open a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves.

This is the first meeting of the season between the two National League East rivals.

The Braves come off winning two of three games at Miami to complete a 3-3 road trip. Philadelphia scored a dramatic 4-3 10th inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday to break a three-game losing streak. Philadelphia has lost five of its last seven.

The first game of the series features Wheeler (2-3, 3.49 ERA) against rookie Atlanta left-hander Tucker Davidson (1-0, 5.87).

Over his last four starts, Wheeler is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He has not allowed a run in three of those outings and has allowed only three runs in 26 innings in that stretch.

Wheeler is coming off perhaps his best start of the season when he threw seven scoreless innings in a 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres last Wednesday. Wheeler allowed only four hits and struck out a season-high nine batters.

“You just see, especially when it’s later in games, he just looks stronger,” said Philadelphia first baseman Rhys Hoskins. “The stuff is still as crisp as it is in the first inning.”

Wheeler said, “I just go out there and try to do my thing and just pitch the best I can. Hopefully the results help that.”

Wheeler, who grew up in suburban Atlanta, has been tough against the Braves. In 21 career starts against Atlanta, Wheeler is 8-7 with a 3.23 ERA. His last start against the Braves came on Sept. 28, 2021, when he gave up two runs in seven innings and lost 2-1.

Davidson, one of the team’s prized young arms, made his first start of the season on May 17 and earned his first career victory. He threw five shutout innings against Milwaukee, allowing three hits, three walks and striking out three in a 3-0 win.

“He did exactly what we needed him to do,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “This is a great opportunity for him. We need someone to fill that (No. 5 starter) spot and he really made a nice statement that he wants it.”

Davidson has made one career start against Philadelphia, throwing six shutout innings against the Phillies in 2021 without getting a decision.

The Braves will have to face nemesis Bryce Harper, who returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing five games with right elbow soreness.

“It’s good to have him back,” Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi said. “Any time you take a player of his caliber out of the lineup, you are going to miss him.”

Harper is 1-for-8 since his return. He has feasted against the Braves in his career, hitting 37 homers with 89 RBIs in 159 career games. He has hit more home runs against the Braves than any other opponent.

Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. continues to get on base. He went 2-for-4 and doubled on Sunday and extended his on-base streak to 29 games. The run dates to last June 25.

–Field Level Media