Phillies extend win streak to 9 games behind Zack Wheeler

Phillies extend win streak to 9 games behind Zack Wheeler

The Phillies had two kinds of momentum on their side Saturday.

Numero uno, obviously, was the eight-game winning streak they carried into the middle contest of a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Number back was the man on the pitcher’s mound.

Zack Wheeler continued his recent streak of dominance in leading the habanero-hot Phillies to a 4-0 victory over the Diamondbacks.

The victory was the Phillies’ ninth in a row, matching their longest since the 2011 team won nine straight on its way to a club-record 102 wins. (The team record for most wins in a row is 13, accomplished most recently in 1991.)

Saturday’s win improved manager Rob Thomson to 8-0 since taking over for Joe Girardi when the team was 22-29. At 30-29, the Phils are over .500 for the first time since the season was five days old and they were 3-2.

What an amazing ride this has been with lots of wins, lots of power — the Phils have hit 22 homers during the nine-game winning streak — and plenty of good starting pitching.

“Everything is rolling along pretty good,” Thomson said. “We just have to keep it going.

“We got to .500. Now shoot for five over. Once we get there, shoot for 10 over.”

Wheeler got an early run on a first-inning double by Rhys Hoskins and an RBI single by Nick Castellanos.

An inning later, rookie Bryson Stott clubbed his fourth homer in the last eight games, a two-run shot to right, to give the Phils a 3-0 lead.

Wheeler and the bullpen made it stand up.

“He got ahead, his stuff was good, he was Zack,” Thomson said of Wheeler, who entered the game with a 1.61 ERA in his previous seven starts.

The right-hander continued his dominance with six shutout innings. He gave up two hits, walked none, struck out eight and broke a bunch of bats. All in all, just another good day for Wheeler, who did not accompany the team to Milwaukee during the week as he and his wife, Dominique, welcomed a daughter, Bambi.

Back in Philadelphia with his family, Wheeler said he was captivated following his teammates and their winning streak.

“I was just hoping that it would get back around to me and I could keep it going,” he said. “We were able to do that.”

Over his last eight starts, Wheeler has given up just eight earned runs in 51⅔ innings for an ERA of 1.39. He has registered 64 strikeouts and walked just 11 over that span.

In seven starts at Citizens Bank Park this season, Wheeler has given up seven earned runs in 42⅓ innings for a 1.49 ERA.

He is riding a 34-inning scoreless streak at home.

Wheeler exited at 98 pitches after six innings and the bullpen protected the lead. Right-hander Andrew Bellatti got the biggest out of the game after the Diamondbacks loaded the bases with three two-out singles against Jeurys Familia.

With the tension rising and a big winning streak on the line, Bellatti came on and retired switch-hitter Ketel Marte on a fly ball to center field to end the threat.

“It was a pretty intense situation and I enjoyed it,” Bellatti said.

Seranthony Dominguez was unavailable after pitching two days in a row so Thomson went to Bellatti.

“That’s what you have to do,” Thomson said. “It’s next man up when somebody is down and he did it, got a big out.”

Brad Hand pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Cristopher Sanchez got the final three outs after the Phils pushed the lead to 4-0 and Corey Knebel came down with a stiff shoulder while warming in the bullpen.

Thomson is just the second Phillies manager to begin his career 8-0, joining Pat Moran of the 1915 NL champion Phils. He is the first big-league manager to start a career with eight straight wins since Joe Morgan of the 1988 Red Sox. Morgan succeeded John McNamara mid-season and won his first 12 games.

In Boston, they called it Morgan Magic.

Torrid Thomson is making all the right calls. Bellatti made him look good in the seventh. And Matt Vierling made six plays (and caught a pop up) in his first-ever (and we mean ever) game at second base.

“The ball will find you,” Vierling joked after the game. “I kind of figured it would be hit to me a lot.”

Nervous?

“Yeah, but it kind of went away after the first one — then they kept coming,” he said.

The Phils go for a third straight series sweep and 10 wins in a row Sunday with Ranger Suarez on the mound.

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