Monday’s game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the host Milwaukee Brewers will feature an elite pitching matchup between 2021 All-Star right-handers.
The Phillies (70-66) will start Zack Wheeler (11-9, 3.01 ERA). The Brewers (84-54) will counter with Brandon Woodruff (9-7, 2.35).
Both pitchers will be well rested — five days off for Woodruff and six for Wheeler.
Woodruff does his best work with five days of rest, posting a 16-6 record and a 2.60 ERA in 34 starts. He is 6-8 with a 3.90 ERA on four days of rest and 4-4 with a 3.89 ERA with six.
This season, Woodruff is 9-4 with a 1.93 ERA with five days of rest and 0-2 with a 5.32 ERA with six.
Wheeler is 10-9 with a 4.28 ERA in 27 career starts with six days of rest. This year, however, he is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in that scenario.
Woodruff, who has made 26 starts and pitched 157 1/3 innings this year — both career highs — said he believes the extra day of rest between starts has helped him.
“The front office and the coaching staff have been smart about it,” said Woodruff, a 28-year-old who was signed by Milwaukee in 2014 as an 11th-round pick out of Mississippi State. “A lot of us pitchers are hard-headed. We want to pitch. But we understand there’s a bigger picture.
“Thankfully, I’m healthy. Hopefully, I can stay healthy. That’s been our plan all along.”
Wheeler, 31, has made 27 starts this year and has thrown 182 2/3 innings, which is the most in the majors. He figures to pass his career high of innings pitched, which was 195 1/3 with the New York Mets in 2019.
A former first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants, Wheeler has battled arm injuries throughout his career, missing all of 2015 and 2016 and half of 2017.
Perhaps those injuries and his 2021 workload explain why Phillies manager Joe Girardi moved Wheeler back one day in the rotation after he originally had been scheduled to pitch on Sunday.
Then again, after losing this past weekend’s series to the lowly Miami Marlins, the stress on the Phillies to end their nine-year playoff drought continues to rise.
“We have to play better,” Girardi said after the Phillies lost two of three games to Miami.
One player Girardi is happy with is rookie Matt Vierling, who has started at all three outfield positions and at first base.
It’s a short sample size, but Vierling is hitting .450 with two doubles, one triple, three runs scored and two RBIs in 20 at-bats. A St. Louis native who turns 25 on Sept. 16, Vierling has handled the glove well, too.
“With more work, we can also put him at third base,” Girardi said of Vierling, who was the Phillies’ fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2018. “It’s great to have that versatility. It increases your value.”
Vierling aside, the Phillies — who have more blown saves (29) than any other team in the majors– are relying on sluggers such as right fielder Bryce Harper (27 homers, 64 RBIs), left fielder Andrew McCutchen (23 homers, 69 RBIs) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (14 homers, 58 RBIs).
Milwaukee’s offense is led by third baseman Luis Urias (19 homers, 62 RBIs) and shortstop Willy Adames (17 homers, 51 RBIs).
However, Adames aggravated a left-quad injury on Saturday and was placed in the 10-day injured list on Sunday.
–Field Level Media