2022 MLB Playoffs: Zack Wheeler, Phillies on the brink of a World Championship in Game 5

by Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer

PHILADELPHIA – On the morning of December 6, 2020, in the boredom of winter baseball, news drip Outside that Philadelphia Phyllis They were listening to shows on Zach Wheeler.

The news was baffling. Just prior to that, Philly had hooked Wheeler into a free agency, and dumped the 30-year-old with five years and $118 million. Up until that point in his career, Wheeler had been performing like a mid spin start. The Phyllis bet it could be more than that. In Wheeler’s first year with the team, he proved them right, posting a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts.

But as ESPN reports, the fan-free COVID campaign has seriously affected the organization’s finances, motivating them to cut salaries. As a result, everyone has a big contract except Bryce Harper It was mentioned in the trade block. That included Wheeler… until it didn’t.

Just hours after the initial report was released, club owner John Middleton set the record straight: The Phillies had absolutely no intention of dealing with Wheeler.

“I wouldn’t trade him for Babe Ruth,” Middleton stated.

He stayed true to his word. Wheeler hasn’t traded for Babe — or anyone else, for that matter. It’s also a good thing. Since then, Wheeler has blossomed into one of the best bowlers in baseball, a true ace, a pitcher that can take you places.

And now, three years after Phillies made him the highest-paid bowler in franchise history, two years after Middleton hailed him for the Great Bambino and one year as a runner-up at Cy Young, Wheeler has the opportunity of a lifetime: to advance his club to the world championship.

Zach Wheeler talks to Ken Rosenthal about his performance in Game One

Zach Wheeler talks to Ken Rosenthal about his performance in Game One

In an interview with Ken Rosenthal, Zach Wheeler discusses how he beat the San Diego Padres.

Graduated from high school in Georgia before giants In 2009, the potential client was sent to mets vs. Carlos Beltran in Deadline 2011. Wheeler made his Queen’s debut in 2013 but lost in his first two major league seasons. Then the inevitable: Like so many before and after, Wheeler’s elbow ligaments ruptured, leading to Tommy John’s surgery in the spring of 2015.

It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. While Wheeler was fighting during Groundhog Day to rehab his elbow at the Mets compound in Port St. Lucie, his teammates had had the season of their lives. The 2015 Mets became the 2015 Mets™, and Wheeler watched it all with annoyance from his couch as the Mets turned down his request to join the team in the post-season dugout. As his contemporaries became icons of October, porting the Mets to the Fall Classic, Wheeler had no choice but to watch from home.

“I should be there,” Wheeler recalls thinking to himself that fall as his fellow dreamers lived. “that should be me.”

From there, things got worse. Wheeler’s elbow did not heal as it was supposed to. The way back was more bumpy than expected. Initially, the plan was for him to come back sometime during the 2016 season, but an April operation to remove a stitch that failed to dissolve after initial surgery pushed his schedule back a few months.

Then, on his first rehab ride at the Mets complex, Wheeler experienced a flexor tendon strain, which required an injection and a longer time away from the stack. In the end, the Mets shut him down for the season. By the time he got back into MLB, he had lost a full two years. He will fight ineffectiveness for someone else.

But during his time away from the game, Wheeler learned something invaluable: how to play.

“I didn’t do anything the whole time,” he recalls. “If there was a match, I would have tried to watch it.”

Unable to throw a baseball, Wheeler studied those who could. I’ve set it up for the better: Clayton KershawAnd the Max ScherzerAnd the Jacob Degrom. From hundreds of miles away, notice how much the best shooters in the world trust their stuff. They didn’t shy away from hitters or nibbled on edges. They attacked, they were fearless, they worked deeply in games.

When his arm was finally healed, Wheeler decided he was intent on becoming that kind of guy.

“Earlier in his career, he was a pitcher,” hitting coach Kevin Long-Phillies told FOX Sports. “You knew at some point in the beginning, it was going to wear out, and you could get to it. Not anymore.”

Nowadays, a wheeler is a horse, an ace, a horse. He turned himself into one of the jugs he’d seen on TV.

“He will come at you and attack you no matter what,” Mask JT Realmoto He said. “It doesn’t matter if Barry Bonds gets in there. He’s trying to kick off and lead in front of you. There are a lot of really good shooters who don’t necessarily have that mindset.”

This approach comes through the numbers. In 2014, the year before his elbow faded, Wheeler’s 54.4% hit average ranked him 111th out of 112 shooters (150 rounds). In Cy Young’s 2021 runner-up season, he ranked eighth with 66.8%. That’s how aces.

It pays to have his arsenal more stocked than the Food Network. The ultra-fast four-speed sewing machine is around 96 and has a higher height than a can of baking powder. This speedball pairs perfectly with the weight of a bowling ball and the low 90s slide is dirtier than the underside of the tractor. There is also a curve ball that he can deploy to steal hits early in the count or use as a weapon in the bottom area against the left.

“He’s got four or five pitches. He can lead all of them, all the time,” his teammate on rotation Aaron Nola He said. “That’s impressive. That’s what makes him so elite.”

The combination of things and a willingness to use them forcefully raised Wheeler to elite rank. Since the start of 2020, he’s had the seventh lowest in baseball. In this post-season, he only allowed three winning games in 19 1/3 rounds, all of which came in the sixth inning of NLDS Game 2, after Reese Hoskins A stop globe can’t be put together with two naysayers.

If Hoskins makes this play, Wheeler is aimlessly practicing postseason, and people start arguing about the order of his exploits in October in the supplement date.

It may happen anyway, if everything goes as planned.

Fourteen years ago, another Phillies player threw a gem in NLCS 5 to send his club to the World Championships. Cole Hummels still drinks free in this town.

on me Sunday afternoonin First home start for this postseasonWheeler will seek to repeat those championships. It has the potential to be the stuff that legends make: an ace, dominating in front of a crowd of powder keg, carries his team to the world championship.

Nobody likes the elephant taking the ball. This is what Middleton opened to open the piggy bank. That was why he did not replace Wheeler with Ruth.

Jake Mintz, the top half of @CespedesBBQ He is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He is a fan of Orioles and lives in New York City, and as such leads a secluded life in most October residents. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter @Jake Mintz.

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