Tonight’s pitching matchup preview: Wheeler vs. Morton

The Phillies are heading to Atlanta for a three game set Friday night after sweeping the Braves in Philadelphia in the opening series of 2021. The Phillies (5-1) took two of three from the Mets at home in their next series and the Braves (2-4) did the same against the Nationals in Washington.

Tonight, we see the same pitching matchup that we saw in the second game of the series between the Phillies and Braves: Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler & the Braves new toy, two-time All-Star, Charlie Morton.

Two pitchers with nasty stuff, Wheeler in his prime, and Morton, who is somewhat of an anomaly, having his best years as a pitcher in his mid to late 30’s. Regardless, watching these two arms go up against each other is going to be a treat. Let’s take a look at their matchup from last week.

New father, $118-million man Zack Wheeler arrives to his Phillies debut  with his mind at ease | Scott Lauber
JOSE F. MORENO / Philadelphia Inquirer

Wheeler has looked like he’s been worth every bit of that 5-year/$118 Million dollar contract that he signed with the Phillies last offseason, and his first start against the Braves may have made it look like an underpay. He went seven strong innings, striking out 10, only allowed one hit, and most importantly, did not allow any runs.

Wheeler threw his 4-seam fastball the most (42%, according to Baseball Savant) and why not when his average velocity on it was 97.7. He threw his slider (22%) & sinker (23%) to go along with the heat, and the Braves had no idea what to do at the plate, with their only hit of the game being a Travis d’Arnaud single. Expect more of the same approach from Wheeler in tonight’s matchup against Atlanta’s lineup.

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Morton was brought in to be the number two behind the Braves young ace Max Fried. Even at age 37, he fits that mold. He’s been someone who has found his best stuff during his later years in his career, and with Mike Soroka coming off an injury & Ian Anderson still being a young prospect, the Braves needed to make a move to solidify the rotation, and they did just that.

No, Morton wasn’t incredible in his first start against the Phillies, but he definitely gave them a chance to win. He went five innings, giving up six hits and three earned runs to go along with five K’s. He threw 76 pitches, but Brian Snitker pulled the veteran due to a shorter leash for most starters in their first outing of the young season.

Like he’s done the last three seasons, Morton threw his fastball & curveball (29% each, according to Baseball Savant) the most, and he threw his cutter & sinker each at a steady clip of 21%. Morton was solid in his first outing, but will have to be careful tonight as the Phillies offense has gotten going a bit, as they scored eight runs against the Mets on Wednesday.

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