Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler suffocated his former team with a complete game shutout on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park (PHI 3, NYM 0). With that gem, Wheeler pitched the first-place Phillies to their eighth straight win -- their longest win streak in more than a decade -- and dropped the New York Mets to third place for the first time since late April. For the Phillies, the win also completes a three-game sweep of the Mets.
Here's Wheeler's line for the day:
Of Wheeler's 108 pitches, 80 went for strikes, and he also registered nine ground-outs against only one fly-out. With that sterling effort -- his second shutout of 2021 and third of his career -- Wheeler picked up his 10th win and whittled down his ERA for the season to 2.42. Along the way, he's struck out 181 and walked 34 in an MLB-leading 156 innings. He's now struck out 10 or more batters in six starts this season. Consider Wheeler to be very much in the NL Cy Young discussion for 2021. The 31-year-old All-Star toiled for the Mets for five seasons before signing a five-year, $118 million free agent contract with the Phillies prior to the 2020 season.
At one point on Sunday, Wheeler retired 22 batters in a row, and that made for a very notable coincidence on the same day that Hall of Famer Roy Halladay had his No. 34 retired by the Phillies:
"It was great to pitch on Roy's day," Wheeler said after the game. "Great to represent him."
In support of Wheeler, NL MVP candidate Bryce Harper hit his 20th home run of the season, and J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura also went deep. All three home runs came off Mets starter Taijuan Walker. Harper has now reached base in 17 straight games.
The Phillies are now six games over .500 for the first time since September of 2019. The Phillies are now 8-0 in August and 15-9 since the break. They're also now 34-21 at home this season. Presently, they lead the Braves by two games and the Mets by 2 1/2 in the NL East standings. That lead could be challenged in the days ahead, as the Phillies will play 11 of their next 14 against the Dodgers, Reds, Padres, and Rays.
As for the Mets, they've lost four in a row and are 1-7 in August and 9-15 in the second half. They recently fell out of first place after being atop the NL East for 90 straight days. The Mets, now 56-55, have a worse run differential (minus-18) than the fourth-place Marlins.
Moving forward, the Mets have a diminishing outlook. The offense remains a trouble spot (they rank 14th in the NL in runs scored and 12th in OPS), and it's not certain when or if ace Jacob deGrom will pitch again in 2021. They're also without shortstop Francisco Lindor, and his deadline replacement, Javier Baez, departed Sunday's loss with left hip tightness and is now day-to-day.
For those reasons and the present roster advantages of the Phillies and Braves, the SportsLine Projection System isn't particularly bullish on the Mets right now. Coming into Sunday, SportsLine gave the Mets just a 10.5 percent chance of winning the division and just an 11.8 percent chance of making the postseason by any means. Sunday's loss will of course nudge those figures a bit lower.
The Phillies, meantime, have greatly improved their lot in recent days as they try to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011, when their rotation was fronted by Halladay.