HOUSTON — Zack Wheeler would have preferred the leadoff spot in the Phillies’ rotation, but the combination of a batted ball off his left knee during his last start and better numbers on extra rest took precedence.
The Phillies ace will instead get the ball Saturday in Game 2 of the World Series against the Astros. In four starts this postseason, the right-hander has pitched to a 1.78 ERA.
Wheeler said his knee was sore in recent days, but his throwing wasn’t disrupted. Aaron Nola started Game 1 on Friday and went 4 ¹/₃ innings — giving up five runs on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks in the Phillies’ 6-5, 10-inning win. The calculus included Wheeler’s 2.57 ERA this season pitching on five days’ rest. On four days’ rest, he pitched to a 3.64 ERA.
“Pitchers, we like to take pride in pitching every fifth day,” Wheeler said before Game 1. “But if the numbers speak for themselves, they speak for themselves. I think an extra day of rest for me, numbers-wise, speaks for itself. I’m a little better with five days rest instead of four. I think it will help me.”
Wheeler has never faced the Astros, but said he won’t dig too deep for information.
“I don’t like thinking too much when I am out there,” he said. “I just like knowing the basics … and kind of the tendencies of them hitting.”
Dusty Baker, 73, became the oldest major league manager with Tony La Russa’s departure from the White Sox this month. Since then, the Rangers hired Bruce Bochy, 67, as their new manager. The 60-something crowd also includes Buck Showalter, Brian Snitker and Terry Francona, among others.
The older crowd has Baker’s blessing.
“Maybe people realize that it takes years to hone your craft, and also the need to intertwine modern baseball and older baseball, and the fact that these guys are human, and they’re human beings, and they’re not just numbers,” Baker said.
“I’m glad that I’ve had some relative success. I’m glad that Bucky and Snitker and these guys have had relative success where you’re more trusted at this point in our lives.”
Astros outfielder Chas McCormick holds a special connection to this World Series as a Philadelphia-area native who grew up rooting for the city’s sports teams.
He recalled the joy of watching the Phillies win their last World Series title in 2008 before the Eagles won the first Super Bowl in franchise history nine years later.
“Since I’m actually playing in the World Series, this is as crazy as it could get,” said the 27-year-old McCormick, who went 1-for-3 with a walk on Friday. “In 2008 I was about 12, 13 years old, so I kind of didn’t know what was going on. I was just a huge Phillies fan at that time. The Eagles Super Bowl, I was a little older. That was pretty crazy as well.”
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