The Philadelphia Phillies own the best record in MLB at the moment for a reason. On Tuesday night, even on a night where they had to scrap and claw against a gritty Boston Red Sox team, the Phillies showed why they're a class above the rest of the pack this season. They pulled out a 4-1 win to start off the series in Fenway Park, thanks in large part to a brilliant night for Zack Wheeler on the mound.

Wheeler was, pun intended, wheeling and dealing on the bump, befuddling Red Sox hitters in his seven innings of work. He may not have had his best strikeout stuff on the night, as he only punched out four against one walk, but he suppressed a ton of hard contact. The Phillies star allowed just one run (off a sacrifice fly in the first inning) on three hits.

Zack Wheeler continues to show that the Phillies boast such an embarrassment of riches in their starting rotation. While Wheeler is part of a star-studded ensemble cast, Red Sox manager Alex Cora viewed Wheeler as perhaps the best of the bunch, even going as far as to call him the best pitcher in baseball.

“For me, in my book, he's the best. The ability to throw the sinker, the cutter, the four-seamer, throw strikes, controls the running game. He's efficient. He's really good, he's really good,” Cora said following the game, via Red Sox Nation Stats on Twitter (X).

Indeed, Zack Wheeler put up a display where no motion of his seemed wasted. Despite going seven innings in the Phillies' latest win, he only threw 88 pitches. This was his most efficient start of the year, as he only averaged 12.6 pitches per inning. His most efficient start of the season prior to Tuesday night came on May 23, when he only needed 91 pitches to pitch seven innings (average of 13 per) in a 5-2 win over the reigning World Series champion Texas Rangers.

Wheeler, who lowered his ERA to 2.16 on the season, has struck out 95 batters (against just 27 walks) in 87.2 innings of work (14 starts). He has pitched over six innings 10 times this year, and he's allowed three or more earned runs only thrice this season. The Phillies have a plethora of NL Cy Young award candidates, but Wheeler certainly has a chance to take home the acclaim come season's end.

Phillies' starting rotation has been elite

The Phillies have been one of the best teams in MLB over the past two seasons. Despite being a Wild Card team, the Phillies have managed to make deep runs in the playoffs, defeating their division rival Atlanta Braves in two consecutive postseasons. But in 2024, the Phillies have established themselves as the powerhouse of the NL East, thanks in large part to what an incredible season their pitching staff has been having.

Zack Wheeler had another excellent start, and as mentioned above, his numbers only improved following another strong outing. But beyond Wheeler, the Phillies have had three other legitimate superstars on the bump, namely Ranger Suarez, Aaron Nola, and Christopher Sanchez, each of whom would be the ace for about 20 other teams in MLB.

For as good of a year as Wheeler has been having, Suarez has been so incredible that he has been outplaying the 34-year old veteran. Suarez is currently sporting a 1.81 ERA, and his peripherals support his elite production on the mound. He has an incredible strikeout to walk ratio of exactly five to one (85:17 at the moment), and he has been suppressing hard contact with his incredible pitch mix.

Meanwhile, Aaron Nola is still going strong with a 2.77 ERA in 84.1 innings of work, while Christopher Sanchez has done as good of a job as any to prevent the ball from going out of the park, which has led to a 2.71 ERA for him across 12 starts (66.1 innings pitched).

This quartet is reminiscent of the Phillies' star-studded pitching crew back in 2011. That team had the privilege of having the late great Roy Halladay fronting the rotation, with All-Star lefties Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in the middle of the rotation, while Roy Oswalt still had some gas left in the tank.

That team also received some quality production from Vance Worley; this is similar to how the 2024 Phillies are getting some found money performances from Spencer Turnbull. Turnbull had an ERA of 7.26 last season for the Detroit Tigers. But now, he is staking his claim for a spot in the rotation amid Taijuan Walker's struggles.

Turnbull has put up an ERA of 1.67 in his six starts with the Phillies this season, but he has been great off the pen as well that the Phillies may want to give Walker an opportunity to regress to the mean first before taking any drastic measures.

The hope now is that, unlike that 2011 team, the Phillies actually manage to get over the hump and win it all in 2024.