Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler is one of the top pitchers in the majors this season, while Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Madison Bumgarner has etched his name into baseball lore.
The two hurlers square off Thursday when the Phillies and Diamondbacks meet in the finale of a three-game series in Phoenix.
Philadelphia could use a strong outing by Wheeler after losing the first two contests of the three-game set. The Phillies fell 4-2 on Wednesday and have just seven hits in the series.
Slumping Philadelphia has lost six of its last eight games and trails the first-place Atlanta Braves by 3 1/2 games in the National League East. Arizona has won five of its past six games.
Wheeler (10-7, 2.56 ERA) is one of the leading candidates to win the NL Cy Young Award, with New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom seemingly out of the race with his latest arm injury threatening to end his season.
Wheeler, 31, leads the majors in strikeouts (187) and innings pitched (162) while making 24 starts.
The All-Star has struck out 10 or more batters six times. He fanned 11 on Aug. 8 when he tossed a two-hit shutout against the Mets. That was his second shutout and third complete game of the season, tying him for the major league lead in both categories.
His last outing wasn’t so smooth as Wheeler allowed four runs and four hits in six innings in a 6-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday.
Wheeler is 4-1 with a 2.58 ERA in seven career starts against Arizona. He has struggled with Christian Walker (4-for-6, one homer) and Ketel Marte (3-for-8, one homer).
Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Bumgarner (6-7, 4.30 ERA) has pitched well in six starts since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for six-plus weeks.
He allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of the starts while going 2-2 with a 2.09 ERA.
The four-time All-Star will forever be known for his role in helping the San Francisco Giants win three World Series crowns.
He had a postseason for the ages in 2014 when he was MVP of both the NL Championship Series and World Series. He recorded an 0.43 ERA against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, earning two victories as a starter and coming back on two days rest to pitch five shutout innings and earn the save in Game 7.
Now Bumgarner is looking for his first victory since beating the Giants on Aug. 3. He allowed two runs against the San Diego Padres in back-to-back starts, losing after throwing seven innings on Aug. 8 and receiving a no-decision after lasting 6 2/3 innings on Friday.
Bumgarner is 5-3 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 career starts against the Phillies. Bryce Harper is 4-for-18 (.222) with two homers against Bumgarner while Jean Segura is 0-for-16.
Harper had a 24-game streak of reaching base halted Wednesday. Odubel Herrera homered, tripled and scored both Philadelphia runs. He is batting .333 (16-for-48) with three homers in August.
“You try to ride those hot streaks because when he gets in them, he gets in them,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said of Herrera, who is batting .250 overall.
Arizona’s latest victory was overshadowed by the ejection of Diamondbacks left-hander Caleb Smith, who had his glove confiscated by the umpiring crew after the top of the eighth inning. The glove will be sent to New York for evaluation, and a possible 10-game suspension looms.
Smith denied wrongdoing and said there was dirt on the glove.
“There’s not a foreign substance on there,” Smith told reporters. “There’s not pine tar. There’s nothing on there. I don’t use that.”
–Field Level Media