Zack Wheeler leaves the starting lineup due to a lower back injury

PHILADELPHIA — They may be the only thing that can slow the Phillies.

They activated Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber from the 10-day injured list for Tuesday night’s 10-day win over the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. It was a welcome return for two of the most feared hitters in baseball.

“Hopefully this is the last little obstacle we face,” Schwarber said before the race.

But Zack Wheeler was forced to retire after the fifth inning due to a stiff left lower back, while Johan Rojas was forced to leave after the seventh inning after being hit on his right forearm by a pitch.

Rojas said he’s doing well. Wheeler said he hopes to make his next start Sunday against Oakland, but he added that his back has been “playing him up a little bit here and there lately.”

It has bothered him especially since he landed hard on the mound at Citizens Bank Park late last month.

“It just got tighter on me,” he said. “I’ve had to deal with it and treat it here and there. It just got a little tighter on me.”

The Phillies have been fortunate that their top four starters — Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez and Cristopher Sánchez — are healthy this year. But the depth of the rotation has been tested with Taijuan Walker and Spencer Turnbull both on the 15-day injured list. Rookie Michael Mercado has made a pair of starts recently, but another rookie, Tyler Phillips, will take his place at No. 5 on Saturday.

Behind Phillips in Triple-A are Max Castillo, Kolby Allard and David Buchanan.

Wheeler said his goal is to pitch on Sunday, but if the Phillies think he needs time to rest, they could find someone else to pitch in the team’s final game before the All-Star break.

They could also adjust the rotation after the break, giving him a few extra days.

Again, that’s if they feel he needs it. Maybe not.

“We just have to take it day by day and see how it goes,” Wheeler said.

The Phillies were nearly at full strength for a few innings on Tuesday, going 5-4 while Harper and Schwarber were on the IL. They are 14-12 without JT Realmuto, who is expected to return from the IL in the first game after the All-Star break.

“It adds depth to [the lineup],” Wheeler said of Harper and Schwarber. “Those guys are two of the best hitters in the league, I think. It’s great to have those guys in the lineup. Schwarbie came in tonight and did his thing. All the hitters did.”

Schwarber hit first and Harper third on Tuesday. The entire lineup crushed Dodgers right-hander Bobby Miller, who allowed 10 hits and nine runs in four innings.

The Phillies’ 7-8-9 hitters, Brandon Marsh, Rafael Marchán and Rojas, each reached base and scored in the second and fourth innings, giving the Phillies a 9-0 lead. Schwarber singled to right-center field in the second inning to score two runs and make it 3-0. He walked to load the bases in the fourth inning, leading to Trea Turner’s grand slam to make it 8-0.

“That depth is what makes us so good,” Turner said.

Harper didn’t have a hit, but he showed he’s healthy. He vowed before the game to “play smart” before the All-Star break. That meant “not putting on the cape,” he said, referring to his role as a superhero on the court.

“I just want to understand what I need to do to stay in the lineup,” he said.

But when Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman couldn’t catch a line drive hit in the first inning, Harper sprinted to the first-base line. Statcast tracked Harper’s sprint speed at 29.1 feet per second, which is the fastest he’s run this season and the fastest he’s run since July 15, 2023.

Now that’s playing it cautiously.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson played it safe in the final minutes, pulling Turner and Harper from the game because the Phils had such a commanding lead.

Thomson often says he worries more about the health of his players than anything else.

The Phillies have overcome injuries to several star players in recent years, including Wheeler, who missed time at the end of 2022. This year, they’ve handled injuries to Harper, Schwarber, Turner, Realmuto, Walker and Turnbull well. They still have the best record in baseball, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to keep pushing their luck.

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