The Philadelphia Phillies will turn to ace Zack Wheeler in an effort to put another dent in the Atlanta Braves’ World Series title defense on Wednesday when he starts Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
Wheeler (0-0, 0.00 ERA postseason; 12-7, 2.82 ERA regular season) will go up against host Atlanta’s Kyle Wright (2022 postseason debut; 21-5, 3.19 regular season) in the second game of the best-of-five series.
The Phillies hung on to win the series opener 7-6 on Tuesday.
“Any time you have Wheeler and (Aaron) Nola going, I think you feel good,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. “But you also have to understand, respect what they have over there, because they have some pretty good pitching, too. We just have to keep playing one game at a time, one pitch at a time.”
Wheeler, a veteran right-hander, helped Philadelphia beat St. Louis in Game 1 of the wild-card series by throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his postseason debut.
Wheeler has a strong history against the Braves. He made three starts against them during the regular season and went 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA. He struck out 25 and walked only one in 20 innings. In 24 career starts against Atlanta, Wheeler is 10-7 with a 3.16 ERA.
“You try to keep most things the same,” Wheeler said. “You try to pitch to your strengths, get quick outs, get out of there. You might have to change some things, but nothing drastic.”
Wright is a much more confident pitcher than he was a year ago, when he spent almost the entire season at Triple-A Gwinnett. The right-hander made only two regular-season appearances for the Braves in 2021 but came back in 2022 to become the first Atlanta pitcher to win 20 games since Russ Ortiz in 2003.
“I think I learned a lot from last year, and then I’ve continued to learn more about myself this year,” Wright said. “I feel like I know who I am. I think last year in the World Series there were a couple of questions — can I still do this? And after my first outing, I felt I did. And I’ve continued to build off of that.”
Wright made two appearances in the 2021 World Series. He worked one scoreless inning in Game 2, which the Braves lost, and did a longer relief stint in Game 4, allowing one run in 4 2/3 innings in a game the Braves won.
It might have been the moment that Wright, the team’s top draft choice in 2017, began to put it all together.
“It’s a process,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “You don’t just show up here, and you don’t show up as the finished product. It just doesn’t work that way. In Kyle’s case, it was good for him to spend the whole season at Triple-A last year.”
Wright made three starts against the Phillies this season and went 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA. He is 2-3 against them with a 3.86 ERA in six career appearances (five starts).
“They’re a really good team,” Wright said. “They have a really good lineup, a lot of experience over there. So it’s going to be a tough challenge for sure, but just kind of have to stay within my plan and control what I can control, and whatever happens from there happens.”
–Field Level Media