PHILADELPHIA – Zach Wheeler deserved this comeback win Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Wheeler loaded a no-hitter in the eighth inning against the Tigers, only to watch them tie the game in the eighth and take the lead in the ninth. But Bryce Harper and Co sparked a comeback, which Clemens capped off in the ninth with his first career strikeout in a 3-2 win.
Clemens broke through a fastball into right field to score on Trea Turner from second base. He rounded first and almost made it to second before being attacked by his teammates.
“It was amazing,” Clemens said.
The Phillies won five straight games to advance to 30-32. The first four starters — at the moment, only four — have each played seven or more innings in their last four games. The Phillies haven’t had four straight seven-game home runs since July 9-12, 2014, when Roberto Hernandez, David Buchanan, AJ Burnett and Cole Hamels did.
He finished the seventh inning at 100 pitches and knew he needed a quick eighth to finish the game.
Wheeler said he would have pressed for the opportunity, if he had kept the no-hitter as is. But he also understood the big picture.
“Obviously everybody wants to throw a no-hitter, but at the same time you have to play him smart,” Wheeler said. “It’s a long season. In the end, we want to win the World Series. That’s what matters. That’s what I want to be there for.”
Wheeler pushed Akil Badu to the second infield with a first out in the eighth. Then Jonathan Scopp hit a ball down the third base line. Phillies third baseman Josh Harrison made a play, but Clemens, who could not catch his throw, short-hopped.
Tyler Nevin followed Harrison’s error with a single to right, ending Wheeler’s hitless bid for the night at 108 runs. Zack Short’s single off Seranthony Domínguez allowed Schopp to score the tying goal. The Tigers then scored a go-ahead run in the ninth.
But Harper started the bottom of the ninth with a double first pitch to right. Trea Turner walked to put runners on first and second. Bryson Stott’s single loaded the bases. A Brandon Marsh sacrifice fly to left field and Harper scored to tie the game.
Clemens grabbed a 2-1 sinker on the right from Alex Lang to score Turner.
“If you don’t get it done, you’re going to get beaten up in this league,” Lang said. “That’s the whole point. It’s a good league with really good hitters. Those are a bunch of all-stars on this team. If you don’t get fired, you’re going to light up, and that’s what happened.”
Clemens is not an all-star. He played sparingly last season with the Tigers—he hit the ninth inning four times for mopping duty, and only hit the ninth inning 12 times—and they included him in a Gregory Soto trade in January. Clemens did not make the Phillies’ Opening Day roster, but joined the team in early April when Darrick Hall suffered a thumb injury.
Clemens seized his chance. He bats .267 with four home runs, 11 RBIs and .753 OPS.
“His pops were here, too,” Harper said, referring to Roger Clemens, who landed in front of the Phillies broadcast booth early in the game. “It’s really great to have this opportunity to play in front of your father.”
Good teams need players like Clemens to step up throughout the season. Depth is crucial.
But then, the promotion started. The Phillies need Wheeler, Nola, Suarez, and Walker to keep rolling, too.
“Anytime you can do that, you can have four guys go in there and take over. … We still need that fifth, right?” said Harper. “I hope we can get whoever it is or whoever it is, kind of put less stress on the job market.”
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