PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps the most amazing part of this Phillies’ truncated season is that they have not yet gotten on a plane or spent a night in a hotel.
Of their first 17 games, 16 of them have been played at Citizens Bank Park, although the Phillies were the road team for one of them.
They have not had to deal with the dangers on the road for COVID-19, which has already led to the Miami Marlins (and indirectly the Phillies) and St. Louis Cardinals to take at least a week off.
That will change Tuesday when the Phillies begin a 10-game road trip to four different cities over the next 11 days.
The Phillies are hitting the road in a good frame of mind after sweeping a three-game series from the Mets with a 6-2 win Sunday as Zack Wheeler, pitching against his former team after leaving as a free agent, shut down the Mets long enough for Andrew McCutchen’s two-run homer in the sixth to put the Phillies in front to stay.
But just being on the road itself could be just as daunting for the Phillies (8-9) during the coronavirus pandemic as any opponent.
“We’ve seen other teams (go through it), and we’ve been in part of it, kind of, when other teams have been irresponsible, and it pains,” Wheeler said. “It doesn’t just hurt you. It hurts your teammates, coaches, other players on other teams.
“We have to be vigilant. Just play it safe. Don’t do anything dumb. Stay at the hotel, go to the ballpark and play, do our job. It’s pretty simple.”
The Phillies will begin the trip Tuesday with a two-game series against the Red Sox, followed by a Thursday doubleheader in Buffalo against the Toronto Blue Jays. That doubleheader is making up two of the three games postponed due to the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak in late July.
That will be followed by a weekend series in Atlanta against the Braves, and a three-game series against Washington.
When the Phillies return, they’ll be nearly halfway through the 60-game season.
Sure, the Phillies could have taken better advantage of all their home games. But Phillies manager Joe Girardi said ending the homestand with a sweep of the Mets puts them in a good frame of mind.
Girardi mentioned how the starting pitching, especially with Aaron Nola on Saturday and Wheeler on Sunday, has been strong, and the offense has been resilient. But even the much-maligned bullpen did better against the Mets.
“You need everyone to contribute, and everyone kind of did their job this weekend,” Girardi said. “And that’s encouraging.”
So far, the Phillies’ only road game was at Yankee Stadium on August 3. The game the next night was also supposed to be played in the Bronx, but a tropical storm hitting the Northeast caused that game to be postponed the day before.
The Phillies bused up to New York the day of the game, then bused back afterward. The Aug. 4 game that was supposed to be made up in New York was made up Aug. 5 in Philadelphia as part of a doubleheader, with the Phillies serving as the road team for Game 1.
After that, it has been a string of home games against the Braves, Orioles and Mets. The Phillies lost two of three to Atlanta, then got swept by the Orioles before turning things around against the Mets.
They did it behind solid pitching from Wheeler, whom the Phillies signed as a free agent to a five-year, $118 million contract after he spent his first five seasons with the Mets.
Wheeler went seven innings, giving up two runs on six hits in his first game against his former team. Wheeler walked 1 and struck out 4. He improved to 3-0 with a 2.81 ERA.
“You just have to calm yourself down and go make your pitches,” Wheeler said about facing his former team. “I made a lot of good friends over there, a lot of good relationships … You’re facing your old team. You want to go out there and do well. There’s no way around it.”
Wheeler did. He kept the Phillies in the game long enough for them to overtake the skidding Mets, who fell to 9-14.
That came in the sixth inning when J.T. Realmuto led off with a double. One out later, rookie Alec Bohm doubled him in, bringing up McCutchen.
McCutchen, who came into the game batting just .180 with one extra-base hit, wasn’t in the starting lineup. He replaced Jay Bruce in the field the fifth inning. Girardi said Bruce left with a sore quad.
McCutchen hit the first pitch he saw. It was his first home run of the season.
“Expectations are kind of low coming in, so let’s battle,” McCutchen said with a laugh.
Just like that, the Phillies led 4-2.
They added two runs in the seventh to put the game out of reach. And now they’ll face their biggest test of the season, both in the opponents they’ll face on the field and the virus off the field.
“There are a lot of firsts for all of us (this season), so we have to keep the main thing the main thing,” McCutchen said. “We’re just trying to use that as much as possible and not think about everything else that’s going to come with this 10-game road trip.”
Roman Quinn on COVID-19 list
Both of the Phillies center fielders are on the injured list after Roman Quinn was placed on the COVID-19 list Sunday because he wasn’t feeling well. He is awaiting coronavirus test results. Adam Haseley (wrist) is on the 10-day injured list. The COVID-19 list doesn’t specify a minimum of days that a player has to miss. So Quinn can return as soon as he receives two negative tests in a row.
Girardi said Quinn called in Sunday morning with an earache and sore throat, and stayed home rather than reporting. “He did the right thing,” Girardi said.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.