Sometimes, things happen in sports that are too beautiful to not be controlled by some sort of magic. This is one of those situations.
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler took the mound on the day that the number of the late great Roy Halladay was retired by the Phillies organization. After surrendering an early double, Wheeler went on to retire 22 consecutive batters en route to a complete game shutout.
The last time a Phillies pitcher retired 22 straight batters?
Roy Halladay. May 29, 2021. He threw a perfect game.
Zach Wheeler had the game of his life
Wheeler has been dealing this season, racking up 170 strikeouts in 147.0 innings pitched, paired with a very pretty 2.57 ERA. But this game, on this day, was an entirely different experience.
“To do that on his day, what can you say?” Wheeler said, according to NBC Sports. “Today was [Holladay’s] day and I just tried to pitch like him.”
His manager agreed.
“On a day that you honor one of the greatest pitchers that I’ve witnessed pitch, he goes out and it was like Roy had his hand on him,” said Phillies manager Joe Girardi. “He gives a Roy Halladay appearance today.”
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Wheeler stepped into the on-deck circle, signifying that he would take his at-bat and therefor return to the bump in the ninth inning to attempt a complete game shutout. The crowd roared.
It was a masterclass — he whirled a complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts, one walk, and only two hits allowed.
Remembering Roy Hallady
Halladay started his career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, spending 12 years with the organization before being traded to Philadelphia. Despite playing only four seasons in Philadelphia, he made an indelible impact on the organization. In his first season in the City of Brotherly Love, Halladay racked up 21 wins on his way to his second Cy Young Award. He went on to compile a 55-29 record over those four years with a 3.25 ERA, highlighted by a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter.
He cemented himself as a future Hall of Famer.
Tragically, Halladay died in 2017 when he crashed his plane in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame two years later in his first year of eligibility.
The Phillies are surging
If you haven’t been paying attention, the Phillies are red hot right now. They’ve won eight straight games, their longest streak since 2011, while the division rival New York Mets have slid with a 2-8 record over their last 10 games. The Phillies now find themselves in the driver’s seat of the division, with a two game lead on the also-surging Atlanta Braves.
Wheeler has been a big part of that success, but teammate Bryce Harper has been doing his part as well.
Over the last two months, Harper has been playing some of the best baseball of his career. Since June 12, Harper has a slash line of .339/.437/.661 with 12 home runs.
If Wheeler can continue to pitch like the ace that he’s been all season, and if Harper continues his torrid pace, the Phillies have as good a shot as anyone to win the National League East.