Zack Wheeler leads streaking Phillies against Reds

Field Level Media

August 13, 2021 at 4:00 am.

The Philadelphia Phillies seem to be gelling at the right time heading into the opener of their three-game series against the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.

They’ve won nine of their past 11 games to edge ahead of the Atlanta Braves for sole possession of first place in the National League East.

“All I want to do is win,” said six-time NL All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, who hit a solo home run and scored twice to help the Phillies to a 2-1 win against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday. “Get into the postseason and play deep into October.”

Philadelphia’s front office showed it’s determined to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011, acquiring starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and closer Ian Kennedy at the trade deadline last month.

Gibson won his first two games with Philadelphia before absorbing a loss on Wednesday against the Dodgers.

Kennedy notched a save in his third straight appearance on Thursday, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth that unfolded when he didn’t get a called third strike to two different batters who eventually walked, leading to the ejection of Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi for arguing the calls.

Archie Bradley, who set up Kennedy’s latest save by blanking the Dodgers in the seventh and eighth innings, was impressed with the way Kennedy stayed composed.

“Ian is a true professional, and when you don’t get that strike three call that you’ve earned, sometimes the only thing that you can do is forget it immediately,” Bradley said. “If you spend too much time worrying about the call you didn’t get, you’re going to get rocked by your next guy and lose a ballgame.”

The Phillies plan to send their ace to the mound for the series opener.

Zack Wheeler (10-6, 2.42 ERA) is coming off a two-hit shutout against the New York Mets on Sunday. It was the veteran right-hander’s fourth career complete game, third by shutout.

Wheeler has made four starts against the Reds in his career and is 1-0 with a 2.52 ERA. He hasn’t allowed a home run in 25 innings against Cincinnati.

The Reds will counter with right-hander Tyler Mahle, who is 6-1 on the road this season with a 2.06 ERA. He’s trying to reach double-digits in wins for the first time in his five-year MLB career.

Mahle (9-3, 3.78) has made two starts against the Phillies in his career and is 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA.

He’s also coming off a strong outing, allowing two runs and six hits in seven innings against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. He struck out 10 and didn’t walk a batter for the third time this season.

The Reds were without right fielder Nick Castellanos in a 12-3 win against the Braves on Thursday because he was hit in the foot by a pitch in the ninth inning the night before. He was available to pinch-hit on Thursday, but wasn’t needed.

Castellanos is second in the NL with a .319 batting average.

The Phillies were without three-time All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, who was hit in the face with back-to-back foul balls on Wednesday, but should be ready to play this weekend as well.