WASHINGTON – The Phillies had called Ranger Suarez for a reliever in just about every situation they could think of this season – and he excelled in every one of them.
Suárez piggybacking a trio of Spencer Howard starts. He came in to retire hard left. He recorded saves that required only one out and up to seven.
On Monday, the closer starter checked another box in the Phils’ 7-5 win over the Nationals. In his first start since September 30, 2018, Suárez did not allow a hit, while hitting the minimum on just 33 fields in three goalless innings at Nationals Park.
The only flaw on Suarez’s night was a leadoff walk to Josh Bell in the second inning, which he immediately erased by double-playing Yadiel Hernández a batter later. The southpaw who hit a punch put the finishing touches to his outing with a third inning over seven pitches.
“Pretty efficient. He threw punches, he kept his speed high. His stuff was really good, ”said manager Joe Girardi. “It’s something to build on. We can probably push him to 60-65 places next time. Even if he didn’t get that high today, he had his ups and downs to go through. It’s impressive what he did tonight. “
Girardi decided on fourth place in the bullpen, as Suárez is relieved to be included in the rotation after his first 27 missions. He had only surpassed 30 fields once in his last 13 games as of June 22nd, and in his last three games together he had thrown 38 fields.
“Everything went well. Everything went as expected,” Suárez said of a translator. “That was the plan – to throw three innings on a small number of pitches.”
Of course, using Suarez to fix the lack of rotation depth also requires the Phillies to continue testing a bullpen that – outside of Suarez – has had major problems. Philadelphia’s Auxiliary Corps went into the night with a 4.56 ERA (21st in MLB), and that number drops to 4.99 if you take Suárez ‘1.12 mark out over 40 1/3 innings.
The Phils hope the inclusion of Ian Kennedy will help those numbers, but the bridge to the New Closer was a little longer than usual on Monday due to Suarez’s abbreviated excursion. His former close associate, Héctor Neris, followed Suárez with two goalless innings, but that left Enyel De Los Santos in a 1-0 game in the sixth inning despite the fact that each of his last seven appearances with the team have been many times behind . The right handed Andrew Stevenson promptly allowed a game-defining pinch hit homer.
Philadelphia then launched a trio expected to tackle many high leverage innings: José Alvarado, Archie Bradley, and Kennedy. Bradley inherited a base-loaded one-out jam from Alvarado, and while allowing Ryan Zimmerman a two-run go-ahead single, he promptly induced an inning-ending double play from the next batter. Bradley then returned to hit a 1-2-3 eight, despite the third pitch in as many days.
“I’ll be the first to tell you I didn’t have the start to the season that I wanted,” said Bradley, who has had an ERA of .69 in 12 appearances since July 1, after being in his first set up an ERA of 4.50 had 21 appearances. “When I was expected by the Phillies when they signed me, I think I haven’t really played like that until last month. But I have a one-year contract here. I’m here to help this team win. That’s why they brought me in: to help this bullpen.
“I’m a seasoned major league arm. I’ve won three in a row, I’ve got four out of five – and I’m ready to take on this burden and pitching role as best I can, winning this NL East. “
By minimizing the damage, Bradley set the stage for the Phillies’ ninth inning, which took the club back to .500 (53-53) and, more importantly, just 2 1/2 games from first place Mets (55-50 ). That five-time rally in the ninth inning also came as the Mets were on the verge of dropping a 6-3 decision to the Marlins – a score that the Phils third base players got a good look at on the out-of had city scoreboard in the right midfield.
“I’m sure they had to see it – it’s right in front of them,” Girardi said when asked if he thought his players were watching the scoreboard. “It must be impossible. If you don’t see it, I’ll be a little worried about you. “
Bradley Says He’s “Finally In” [his] Groove, ”his right arm could be the extra boost the Phils need to get a run – especially since Suarez has future success in mind in his latest role.
“He’s the best, man. I’m so jealous of Ranger. He’s the coolest, calmest, most collected guy I’ve ever met, ”said Bradley. “Nothing bothers him. If you look at the season he’s had – tall guy, setup man, closer, now he’s back in rotation – and it’s just proof of who Ranger is as a person. “