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Philadelphia Phillies offense fails to score again for Zack Wheeler, who has a tough sixth inning in blowout loss

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Run support for Zack Wieler has not been on the Philadelphia Phillies’ repertoire for the first month of the season. The lack of goals finally caught up with 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’s 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’s frustrating.”

Despite the lack of run support, Wheeler cruised through five innings with 10 strikeouts and a 2-1 lead. In the sixth inning, Wheeler ran into big trouble.

He failed to record an out as the disastrous inning began with an error by Alec Bohm 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 by Andrew McCutchen.

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Jack Suwinski then connected on an 80-mph curveball that landed in the right-center field seats. Wheeler was pulled immediately after that pitch (his 100th of the afternoon) and finished his day with four earned runs, ten strikeouts and three walks in five-plus innings. His ERA increased 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 steps mechanically. I made an adjustment between the last start and this start. The ball definitely came forward better today.

“It was just a matter of figuring out how the ball moves now. I’m just kind of tightening that up between this start and the next start. They didn’t bite on a lot of things. Sometimes you just have to give them credit.”

The catastrophic inning was not over yet. Seranthony Dominguez came on 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.

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

Harper’s average dropped to .190 after an 0-for-4 day. He didn’t strike out in any at bats, but went 2-for-27 (.074) in his last seven games.

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

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

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There is no pressing need in the clubhouse other than a chance to strike and win a few games above .500 before the final week of the opening month. An average of more than 3.7 runs per game would help.

“I feel like we’re starting a little bit better, but we’re 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 create some kind of separation. We have to play well. We can’t give things away.”

“We have to get going on offense, and I think we will,” Turner said. “I don’t think that’s a question at all.”

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