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Phillies do what they’ve done best to beat Nationals in series opener

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Phillies do what they've done best to beat Nationals in series opener

Phillies do what they’ve done best to beat Nationals in series opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Life is much easier as a pitcher, hitter or manager when you play from the front, and the Phillies have done it five days a week all season.

The Phillies outscored the Nationals on Friday on a beautiful night at Citizens Bank Park, scoring once in the first inning, twice in the second and again in the third. Unlike his unusual start on Sunday in Miami, Zack Wheeler managed to hold on for a 4-2 victory.

The Phillies have scored 71 runs in the first two innings of games this season: 12 more than the next MLB team (Texas) and 28 more than the league average.

The Phillies are 32-14 on the season and have struck first 32 times, going 24-8 in those games.

“It just puts people on alert right away, and as the game goes on, I think offenses start to get a little antsy,” manager Rob Thomson said. “You start swinging early and trying to do too much.”

Alec Bohm has been a huge part of their quick starts. He drove in the game’s first run in the first inning, doubling down the right field line with two outs to score JT Realmuto from first. Bohm was 13-for-24 in the first inning this season, hitting .542 with seven doubles, two home runs and 15 RBIs.

Early offense seems to be becoming a part of this team’s personality.

“I hope so. I really hope so,” Brandon Marsh said. “If we start early with the personnel we have and the bullpen to close it out, if we get some early runs, we have a very good chance. I really hope that’s the case for the Phillies ”.

The Phillies drove in two more in the bottom of the second. Marsh and Edmundo Sosa reached base and nine-hole hitter Johan Rojas advanced them with a groundout. Nationals starter Jake Irvin threw a wild pitch to score Marsh, then Kyle Schwarber plated Sosa with a three-foot dribbler down the first base line. On the previous pitch, Schwarber narrowly missed a 425-foot home run to the right of the foul pole. He would accept any outcome.

It seemed early that Wheeler’s night might follow a similar formula to his last start against the Marlins. On both occasions he was crisp in a 1-2-3 first innings. On both occasions, he walked two batters and allowed a run in the second inning. But while he broke down in the third and fourth innings over the weekend, this time he made sure, retiring nine for 10. He allowed just two runs and three hits in 7⅓ innings, both in plays that only Rojas and Nick Castellanos missed. . .

Wheeler’s fastball averaged a season-best 96.4 mph, nearly two mph above his 2024 average.

“It was a little warmer outside, so that definitely helps,” Wheeler said. “And I don’t know, maybe I feel a little better about what I’m doing. “I think the most important thing is probably the weather.”

He also completely regained control of the running game, which is no easy task against Washington. The Nationals are second in the majors behind the Reds in stolen bases and stole five in their only win over the Phillies this season on April 7 in DC.

Wheeler is in his fifth season as a Phillies and there have only been 16 stolen bases in 28 tries with him on the mound. That’s one steal every seven starts. The main reason is that he doesn’t put many runners on base, period. When he does it, he gets to the plate relatively quickly and does a good job of varying his timing.

He is 5-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 10 starts.

José Alvarado got the last two outs of the eighth inning, bringing up lefties CJ Abrams and Eddie Rosario. Jeff Hoffman, who is 14⅔ innings since his last earned run, pitched the ninth for his third save. The bullpen has secured lead after lead this season. The Phillies are 27-1 when leading after six innings, 28-1 when leading after seven and 28-0 when leading after eight.

“It’s huge. It’s like we have four or five closers that have played that role at some point,” Thomson said. “They all have power stuff. It’s good, it allows you to be flexible.”

The Phillies have yet to lose a series since the second of the season, going 9-0-4 in the subsequent 13. They will get another one if they win on Saturday or Sunday.

Saturday is a left-handed duel between Cristopher Sánchez (2-3, 3.43) and Mackenzie Gore (2-4, 3.38).

Sunday is Aaron Nola (5-2, 3.10) against Trevor Williams, who is 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA but is limited to 80 pitches per start.

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