WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: Phillies’ Zach Wheeler caught by surprise when being sidelined for season-ending loss

The Philadelphia PhyllisTheir chances of winning their first World Championship since 2008 faded away on Saturday night, when they lost their sixth game (and thus best of a series of seven) to Houston Astros By 4-1 final. The most pivotal moment in Game 6 occurred in the sixth inning, where Phillies manager Rob Thompson replaced junior Zach Wheeler with loyal Jose Alvarado. Alvarado then surrendered three times at home To the left Astros player Jordan Alvarez.

After the match, Wheeler admitted that Thompson’s decision to remove him from the game “set [him] Unawares.”

Thompson, for his part, said he believes Wheeler still has good things going. He simply preferred Alvardo’s match against Alvarez.

Wheeler’s last streak saw him make 5 1/3 innings, surrendering runs on three strokes and a walk. He hits five and throws 49 of his 70 hits. Despite his success over the first five rounds as well as his low rankings, his exclusion from Saturday night’s competition may not have been a huge surprise.

For example, Velez has approached Wheeler with a conservative mindset since returning from the injured list late in the season. He has not thrown over 80 throws in his last three starts of the regular season, and has thrown less than 90 in all six of his post-season appearances. The Phillies chose to give him an extra day off not once but twice in the World Championships – they could have brought him back for Game 5 in normal rest, but decided instead to give him a full five days off after his Game 2 outing.

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Wheeler, on the other hand, was proceeding the third time through the arrangement—usually the danger zone for starting shooters. Even shooters in Wheeler quality suffer from more exposure to a discount. For wit, his OPS swelled from .609 and .583 the first two times he saw a hitter in a game during the regular season to 0.722 the third time. That’s still better than the league’s average mark in the third game in the game, but that doesn’t mean he was necessarily the best bowler against Alvarez.

In fact, Alvarado has allowed 0.630 OPS against lefties this season, and 0.585 OPS overall. It was reasonable to think he had a better chance of retiring Alvarez – and perhaps even making a double game at the end – for other reasons, too. As we wrote as part of our preview of the top five matches of the World Championships:

In the aftermath, people were quick to point out that Alvarez has only hit 0.265 against the Shining this season, his lowest on any court he has seen regularly. What’s more, his .283 average against left-handed dippers was about 60 points lower than his average versus any other Southpaws handed pitcher. If you’re doing a surface level analysis like this, then yes, a plunger is the way to go.

Add all that up, and Alvarado was a defensible choice in this situation. It just didn’t work.

Alvarado, who produced nearly 60 percent of the ground floor during the regular season, simply threw a bad tone: a sinker that picked up too much of the plate. Alvarez crushed her, 450 feet from the center of the field, and that was it. That’s the beauty and agony of baseball, especially in the post-season: What makes sense on paper doesn’t always translate.

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Still, you can understand Wheeler’s position. He wanted to hand over to his team and keep them alive in the fight for the world title. In most respects, it did its job. Unfortunately, there is little margin for error when playing against a good team like the Astros. Alvarado and the Velez fell on the wrong side of him.

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