Zack Wheeler Channels Roy Halladay on Same Day He Is Honored

Philadelphia Phillies Zack Wheeler
TAMPA, FL – MARCH 07: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) delivers a pitch during the MLB Spring Training game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees on March 7, 2021 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

Every once in a while in sports, it feels like you’re watching a fairytale. The type of stories and moments that Hollywood writers and producers dream of creating. Today, Zack Wheeler and the Phillies produced such a moment. On the day the Phillies retired Roy Halladay’s number 34, Zack Wheeler turned in a Doc-Esque performance and carried the Phillies to a 3-0 victory to cap a sweep of the rival Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies came into the day having already secured they would leave the series with the Mets in sole possession of first place in the NL East. With the NAIT (New Ace In Town for those who haven’t caught on yet) on the mound to face his old team and the emotional ceremony beforehand, I received word from South Philly saying there was something “different” in the air at CBP today. That today felt special. And boy, was Zack Wheeler special.

Zack Wheeler’s dominance

The NAIT-ure boy (cue the Ric Flair WOOOO!!!) came out dealing. Brandon Nimmo started the game with a double, but that did not faze Wheeler. With poise and grace rarely shown by Ric Flair himself, Wheels was purely dominant from there. He faced 30 batters in the game, throwing a first-pitch strike to 22 (!!) of them. 12 of the 22 faced 0-2 counts. Those batters went 1-12 with eight strikeouts. This is the third time Wheeler has had ten or more 0-2 counts in a game this season. The only person in the league with more is his teammate, Aaron Nola (4). Of the eight Mets batters who saw a ball for their first pitch, only two of those batters saw a 2-0 count: Jonathan Villar in the 5th inning and Michael Conforto in the 8th inning.

After Nimmo’s lead-off hit, Wheeler retired 22 consecutive batters. Zack is the first Phillies pitcher to retire 22 straight in a start since, you guessed it, Roy Halladay in his perfect game on May 29, 2010. If you didn’t get chills when reading that, you have no emotions. Plain and simple.

Zack leads the league in innings pitched. The last Phillies pitcher to do that in a full season is… don’t be surprised… Roy Halladay in 2010 when he won the Cy Young award. Wheeler joined Doc and Cole Hamels as the only Phillies pitchers since 2000 to throw a two-hit shutout with 11 or more strikeouts. He’s the first Phillies pitcher with two shutouts in a season since Hamels in 2012, and he’s the first Phillie to shutout the Mets at home since… noticing a trend?… Halladay on May 1, 2010 (shoutout to Phillies Postgame Live for providing the info for this paragraph).

Wheels was feeling comfortable and confident the entire game. He threw his hardest pitch of the season today (100.3 MPH) and his hardest since joining the Phillies. That is impressive. He finished the game off by pumping 96, 96, and 97 MPH past HR Derby champion Pete Alonso. The man even showed his focus by leaping off the mound to make an amazing bare-handed grab. Ridiculous. Filthy. Get this man a Gold Glove for this play alone.

With today’s performance, Wheeler may have cemented himself as the front-runner for the Cy Young award. While Jacob deGrom is on the shelf, fellow contender Kevin Gausman has allowed 11 runs in 11 2/3 since the all-star break. Wheeler has continued his dominance since the break. On today of all days, he channeled Halladay and rose to the occasion, like an Ace. Like Doc. On such an emotional day for the franchise, I will leave you with this touching moment from manager Joe Girardi. No one could have said it better.

Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire