Bottom of Phillies' lineup powers a blowout win over Dodgers despite Zack Wheeler's early exit

Scott Lauber, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Baseball

PHILADELPHIA — The cavalry arrived — and in the nick of time, too — for a visit from the Phillies’ mirror-image coastal superpower. But what happened next was more out of the ordinary than even a trouncing of the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers.

Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber were mostly immaterial to the victory.

Crazy, isn’t it? Upon welcoming back the star sluggers who account for more than one-quarter of the team’s scoring output, the Phillies leveled a 10-1 shellacking Tuesday night because the bottom of the order — Brandon Marsh, Rafael Marchán and Johan Rojas — went 7 for 9 with a homer (from Marsh), two doubles (from Marchán), seven runs, three RBIs and two stolen bases.

OK, so Trea Turner did smash a grand slam to crack open the game like a piñata at an 8-year-old birthday party before struggling Bryson Stott banged a solo shot off the facing of the second deck. And the Dodgers aren’t the Dodgers with three regulars, including Mookie Betts, three starting pitchers, and much of their bullpen jamming up on the injured list like a Los Angeles freeway.

It wasn’t all knee-slapping laughs, either, before 43,065 patrons, another sold-out crowd at Citizens Bank Park. Zack Wheeler dominated for five innings, then exited before the sixth with what the Phillies characterized as “left low back tightness.”

Stay tuned for more on that ominous in-game update.

But it was a testament to the depth of the roster that the Phillies went 5-4 while Harper and Schwarber were convalescing from a hamstring and groin strain, respectively. Before that, they overcame a six-week stretch without Turner. Heck, they’re even 14-12 since irreplaceable catcher J.T. Realmuto had torn cartilage removed from his right knee.

“They did a fantastic job,” Schwarber said. “I feel like that’s kind of been the M.O. of the team over the last couple years that when someone goes down, someone steps right up to the challenge and take it by the reins and they run with it.”

So, when Harper vowed not to push it too hard in his return from the first hamstring injury of his career — “I’m not throwing the cloak on,” he said before the game — the rest of the lineup predictably had his back.

The Phillies raised their best-in-baseball record to 59-32 by pouncing on the 55-37 Dodgers with a two-out rally in the second inning. Marsh drew a walk against starter Bobby Miller, stole second base, went to third on Marchán’s single, and scored when Rojas beat out a chopper past the mound to second base. Marchán and Rojas raced home on a two-run single by Schwarber.


It was the bottom of the order that kick-started a six-run fourth inning against Miller. Marsh singled, went to third on Marchán’s double, and scored on Rojas’ single that hopped past third baseman Cavan Biggio. Schwarber walked to load the bases, and Turner unloaded his sixth career grand slam.

Turn out the lights.

Wheeler, meanwhile, allowed three hits through five innings, the only real blemish against him coming on a homer by Biggio in the fifth. The All-Star ace racked up seven strikeouts and leaned heavily on his heater, which topped out at 97.6 mph.

There weren’t overt signs that Wheeler was dealing with a physical issue. He issued back-to-back two-out walks in the fifth inning, but his last pitch of the game registered 96.1 mph and induced a soft groundout from Dodgers star first baseman Freddie Freeman.

Wheeler was likely headed for further examination. He’s scheduled to start Sunday against the A’s in the final game before the All-Star break, which will make him ineligible to pitch next Tuesday night in Texas.

Now, that start might be in flux.

The Phillies have been fortunate to avoid injuries to the top four starters in their rotation. The Dodgers can’t say the same. They entered a three-game showdown in Philadelphia without Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw, all of whom are out for another few weeks. They also don’t have Betts and injured third baseman Max Muncy and outfielder Jayson Heyward.

So, this is less of a measuring-stick series than it initially appeared. But the nine-run margin — the Dodgers’ most lopsided loss of the season — as Schwarber and Harper ease their way back into the lineup also reinforced why the Phillies have been baseball’s best team through the first half of the season.

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