Breaking: Philadelphia Phillies Zack Wheeler cries out for help

The Philadelphia Phillies’ offense falls short of Zack Wheeler’s goals once more during a tough sixth inning in a blowout defeat.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Run support for Zack Wheeler hasn’t been in the Philadelphia Phillies’ repertoire through the first month of the season. The lack of scoring finally caught up to Wheeler in Sunday’s 9-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Phillies have scored just five runs in Wheeler’s four starts this season, not ideal when the team’s ace is on the mound.

“It is frustrating,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said of the lack of run support for Wheeler. “We haven’t really swung the bats in his starts. That will change. For the most part, he’s pitched really well. So it is frustrating.”

Despite the lack of run support, Wheeler was cruising through five innings with 10 strikeouts and holding a 2-1 lead. The sixth inning was when Wheeler ran into some major trouble.

He failed to record an out, as the disastrous inning began with an Alec Bohm error on a ground ball hit by Ke’Bryan Hayes. Wheeler then walked Rowdy Tellez after an eight-pitch at-bat, which was followed by a bloop single from Andrew McCutchen.

Jack Suwinski then turned on an 82 mph curveball that went into the right-center field seats. Wheeler was pulled right after that pitch — his 100th of the afternoon — ending his day with four earned runs, 10 strikeouts, and three walks in five-plus innings. His ERA rose from 1.89 to 3.00.

“Today was good, but it was frustrating at the same time,” Wheeler said. “The outcome wasn’t good, but I thought I made some good strides mechanically. I made an adjustment between last start and this start. The ball was definitely coming out better today.

“It was just a matter of figuring out how the ball is moving now. I’m just kind of honing that in between this start and next start. They weren’t biting on a lot of stuff down. Sometimes you just gotta give them credit.”

The catastrophic inning wasn’t over yet. Seranthony Dominguez came in for Wheeler and got the first two outs before serving up a home run to Joey Bart as the Pirates took a 6-2 lead. Pittsburgh had five runs in the sixth inning on just three hits.

The Phillies bats were quiet after the damage was done by the Pirates. They had one hit in the seventh from Bryson Stott, but Johan Rojas grounded into a double play to end that threat. Trea Turner reached on a fielding error in the eighth, but Bryce Harper hit into a double play to end the inning. Philadelphia had just one hit after the five-run sixth inning.

Harper’s average dipped to .190 after an 0-for-4 day. He didn’t strike out in any of the at-bats but is hitting 2-for-27 (.074) over his last seven games.

Philadelphia finished 1-of-9 with runners on base and is hitting just .204 for the year in that category. The Phillies finished 1-of-5 with runners in scoring position.

The Phillies are 8-8 through the first 16 games of the season, a much better start than the 6-10 opening from last year. They split a home series with the Pirates and have an opportunity to win more series with the Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox coming to Citizens Bank Park this week (6-23 combined record heading into Sunday).

There’s no pressing in the clubhouse but a chance to strike and get a few games over .500 before the final week of the opening month. Averaging more than 3.7 runs per game would help.

“I do feel like we’re starting a little better, but we’re kind of beating ourselves in some of these games,” said Trea Turner, who finished 3-for-4 with a home run in the loss. “This year, we can kind of create some separation. We gotta play well. We can’t give stuff away.”

“We gotta get going offensively, which I think we will,” Turner stated. “I don’t think that’s a question at all.”

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