World Series: Phillies’ Zack Wheeler caught ‘off guard’ in exiting season-ending loss

The Philadelphia PhilliesTheir chances of capturing their first World Series championship since 2008 fell short in Game 6 (so the best of seven series) on Saturday night. Houston Astros 4-1 in the final. The most important moment of Game 6 came in the sixth inning, when Phillies manager Rob Thompson brought in reliever Jose Alvarado to replace starter Jack Wheeler. Alvarado then surrendered a three-run home run The Astros have outfielder Yordon Alvarez.

After the game, Wheeler admitted that Thompson’s decision to remove him from the game “caught up.” [him] No security.”

Thompson, for his part, said he thought Wheeler had better things to do. He simply loved the match Alvaro provided against Alvarez.

He worked 5 1/3 innings in Wheeler’s final lineup, surrendering two runs on three hits and one walk. He struck out five and threw 49 of his 70 pitches for strikes. Despite his success through the first five-plus innings and his low pitch count, his removal from Saturday night’s contest shouldn’t have been a huge surprise.

For one thing, the Phillies approached Wheeler with a conservative mindset since returning from the injured list late in the season. He threw no more than 80 pitches in his final three regular-season starts, and fewer than 90 pitches in all six of his postseason appearances. The Phillies decided to give him an extra day of rest not once but twice in the World Series — they could have brought him into Game 5 on normal rest, but after his Game 2 they decided to give him the full five days off. Travel abroad.

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For another, Wheeler was making his third start through the order — usually a danger zone for starting pitchers. Even good pitchers like Wheeler suffer from overexposure to the opposition. Wisely, his OPS jumped from .609 and .583 the first two times he saw a hit in the regular season to .722 the third time around. That’s still better than the league-average mark for the third in-game strikeout, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be the best pitcher to face Alvarez.

In fact, Alvarado had allowed a .630 OPS against lefties this season and a .585 OPS overall. For other reasons as well, it’s reasonable to think he has the best chance of retiring Alvarez. We wrote as part of a preview of the first five World Series games:

After that, people were quick to point out that Alvarez only hit .265 against hitters this season. What’s more, his .283 average against left-handed sinkers was nearly 60 points lower than his average against other pitch types delivered from the southpaw. If you’re doing a surface-level analysis like this, yes, Singer is the way to go.

All told, Alvarado was a defensive pick at the position. It didn’t go well.

Alvarado, who made nearly 60 percent of his grounders during the regular season, threw a bad pitch: a sinker that overtook the plate. Alvarez crushed it, about 450 feet to center field, and that was it. That’s the beauty and pain of baseball, especially in the postseason: What makes sense on paper doesn’t always translate.

Still, you can understand Wheeler’s position. He wanted to deliver for his team and keep them alive in the fight for a World Series title. For the most part, he did his job. Unfortunately, there is a slim margin of error when playing against a great team like the Astros. Alvarado and the Phillies fell on the wrong side of it.

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