The biggest story right now around baseball is the Philadelphia Phillies, as they have won eight straight games to take over first place in the NL East Division – leading the Braves by two games and the Mets by 2.5 -- and are now +105 favorites at Caesars Sportsbook to win it for the first time since 2012. In addition, the futures odds of ace pitcher Zack Wheeler to win the NL Cy Young Award and star outfielder Bryce Harper to win NL MVP for a second time have undergone drastic changes in the past few weeks.
The eight-game winning streak by the Phillies is their longest since winning nine straight from July 29-Aug. 6, 2011.
Wheeler was absolutely brilliant Sunday as the Phillies swept a three-game series from the sinking Mets. The former Mets right-hander three a complete-game, two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts. On the day the Phillies retired the No. 34 of the late Roy Halladay, Wheeler retired 22 Mets in a row from the first to eighth inning, the longest streak within a game by a Phillies pitcher since Halladay had a perfect game on May 29, 2010 against the Marlins in Miami.
Wheeler joined Zack Wheeler joined Halladay, Cole Hamels (no-hitter on July 25, 2015) and Kevin Millwood (no-hitter on April 27, 2003) as the only Phillies since 2000 to toss a nine-inning shutout with 11 or more strikeouts and two or fewer hits allowed. Wheeler threw a career-high 19 pitches at least 99 mph and his 184 strikeouts now lead the majors. He's 10-6 with a 2.42 ERA.
At the All-Star break when the Phillies were 44-4 and 6.5 games behind the Mets, Wheeler was +2000 to win the NL Cy Young – back then, Jacob deGrom was the clear leader – but he's now the +200 favorite (Dodgers' Walker Buehler next at +300). Halladay in 2010 was the last Philadelphia pitcher to win it.
As for Harper, he was +5000 to win NL MVP at the All-Star break and +10000 as recently as Aug. 2. Now, he's the +400 second-favorite behind Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (-110), who may or may not play again this season due to a troublesome shoulder injury (and may have to play outfield if he can return).
Harper is hitting .367 with a .457 on-base percentage in August with four homers, seven RBIs and 11 runs scored. He has reached base in 17 straight games with a crazy .551 OBP in that span. Overall, the 2015 MVP while with the Nationals is batting .302 with 20 homers, 45 RBIs and a .413 OBP. The last Phillies player to win NL MVP was Jimmy Rollins in 2007.
The Phillies open a potential playoff preview tonight when they host the Los Angeles Dodgers to kick off a three-game series. Wheeler is scheduled to start again Friday vs. Cincinnati.
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