The Phillies spent the month of August solidifying their odds of making the postseason – 96.9 percent going into play yesterday, according to baseball-reference.com – and they sprinkled the proceedings with a heaping helping of thrills, chills and goosebumps.
Let’s be honest, though. A lot of that success came against Everybody Else. You know, there are the teams that are in first place or have a decent chance to make the postseason as a wild card. That’s half the teams in baseball. Then there’s Everybody Else. The Royals, Nationals – twice! – Cardinals and Angels all appeared on the handy pocket schedules last month. Even the contenders the Phillies, well, contended with (Marlins, Giants) were in deep slumps at the time of their scheduled appointments.
Now it’s September and the spotlight shined a little brighter, a little hotter on this weekend’s series against the Brewers at American Family Field. And after dropping the first two, there was even a little more urgency for the Phils in Sunday’s series finale.
They met the moment with another come-from-behind win, 4-2.
They rallied to take the lead for good in the top of the seventh. Not surprising for a team that had 14 comeback wins in August.
They did it with the long ball and taking advantage of an opening presented by their opponent. That, too, has become standard operating procedure.
What made this one a little different is that it came against Brewers starter Wade Miley who didn’t allow a hit through his first 5 2/3 innings. In that span he faced 18 batters and only two, Cristian Pache on a walk in the third and J.T. Realmuto who was hit by a pitch in the fifth, reached base.
He recorded only two more outs before being knocked out of the game.
“It was not the best feeling (to be down early),” catcher J.T. Realmuto, whose seventh-inning homer put the Phillies ahead to stay, said on the Peacock postgame show. “After the last two games we wanted to come out and get a quick start. Wade threw the ball extremely well earlier in the game but we just kept trying to put at bats together, and everything was good from there.”
Old school baseball people tend to scoff at the newfangled notion that that allowing a starting pitcher to face a team three times through the order is the third rail of baseball strategy. The true believers, though, can point to what happened to Miley against the Phillies to back up their approach.
The third time Miley saw the top of the order, with two outs and nobody on in the sixth, Kyle Schwarber walked, Trea Turner hit a wicked one-hopper past third baseman Andruw Monasterio to end the no-hit bid and Nick Castellanos doubled to get the Phillies on the board.
Miley got Bryce Harper to ground out, ending the inning, but Alec Bohm and Realmuto greeted him with homers to open the sixth. Bryson Stott struck out but Pache walked and that was all for Miley. Brewers manager Craig Counsell waved electric righthander Abner Uribe in from the bullpen.
Uribe got Edmundo Sosa to ground into a force play but second baseman Brice Turang couldn’t make the transfer in time to complete the inning-ending double play. That opened the door for the Phillies to tack on an extra run when Turner singled following a walk to Schwarber.
For the Phillies, Ranger Suarez started off like a pitcher who hadn’t been in a game in three weeks. Which, come to think of it. . .
He and Pache were both taken off the IL and activated Friday when rosters expanded. During his in-game interview with Peacock, manager Rob Thomson mentioned that Suarez looked “rusty” after a freak hamstring injury that appeared while he was shagging fly balls in the outfield.
Suarez needed 75 pitches to get through his four innings and was fortunate to allow just two runs on solo homers by William Contreras in the first and Mark Canha in the third.
He gave up five hits and two walks and tiptoed around big trouble by stranding runners on first and second in the first and left the bases loaded in the third. Suarez was pitching without having made a rehab start; instead he pitched live batting practice twice and was declared ready to go.
But the bullpen, which has scuffled lately, picked it up from there. Jeff Hoffman, Seranthony Dominguez, Matt Strahm, Jose Alvarado and Craig Kimbrel took it from there, shutting out the Brewers over the last five innings and allowing just two runners to get past first base.
Said Realmuto: “We’ve just got to finish strong. We have ourselves in a good position right now. We want to continue to play our game, just finish the season strong and head into the postseason with some momentum. Finish on a good note. We feel like we have a pretty scary team once we get there.”
Phillies RHP Taijuan Walker (14-5, 4.05) vs. Padres LHP Rich Hill (0-3, 8.50) Monday at 6:40 p.m.
RHP Michael Lorenzen (8-8, 3.73) and LHP Cristopher Sanchez (2-3, 3.48) lined up to start the final two games. The Padres have yet to announce their pitching plans for the remainder of the series at Petco Park.