Phillies Analysis

Cristopher Sanchez stuns Marlins in first-career complete game shutout

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The Phillies would never put it quite this bluntly, of course, but the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency Survival Mode Plan that was activated Friday night at Citizens Bank Park pretty much consists of two simple components.

  1. Cross their fingers and hope the superlative pitching they’ve gotten most of the season continues for at least a few more weeks.
  2. Cross their fingers and hope the shortened lineups that will be the norm while waiting for injured stars Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber to heal can scratch out just enough runs not to waste the efforts of those starters and relievers.

A plan, in other words, that eerily resembled the events that played out in front of yet another sellout crowd at the intersection of Broad and Pattison.

The Phillies were able to crank up the volume on the clubhouse sound system with a 2-0 win over the last-place Marlins because Cristopher Sanchez was at the top of his game with the first complete game of his big league career, a three-hit shutout.

They were able to fire up the celebratory smoke machine despite going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They were able to eke out a couple runs with the bottom of the batting order consisting of two players (Kody Clemens, Johan Rojas) who have spent time at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season, a veteran utility man who was batting .191 (Whit Merrifield) and a backup catcher hitting .202 (Garrett Stubbs).

Sanchez was making his second start since signing a 4-year, $22.5 million contract extension even though he wouldn’t have been arbitration-eligible until after the 2025 season. There are also two club option years which, if exercised, would increase the total to $50.5 million as well as Cy Young Award escalator clauses that could further pump up the value.

He might ask to renegotiate soon.

Aw, just kidding. But the slender lefty has really outdone himself since setting himself and his family up financially for life.

“I’m so proud of this kid because he’s come so far,” said manager Rob Thomson, appearing to become emotional. “He’s a dominant pitcher in Major League Baseball. If you saw him a couple years ago you wouldn’t have thought he’d be able to do it. But he’s worked hard. He’s trusted his coaches in the minor leagues and his coaches here. It’s phenomenal. It really is.”

Asked what his transformation shows, he didn’t hesitate. “That nothing’s impossible,” he said through interpreter Diego D’Aniello. “You can do it. You just have to focus and work really hard towards it.”

Sanchez, who showed uncharacteristic emotion at times, including after striking out Josh Bell for the final out, said he made sure to keep the ball as a souvenir.

Against the Marlins he didn’t walk a batter while whiffing nine. But even that doesn’t fully illustrate how overpowering he was. All three hits were singles. Only one runner got as far as second base. He needed just 101 pitches and threw 73 of them for strikes.

His earned run average dropped to 2.64. He still hasn’t given up a run since signing his new deal and has given up just six hits in 16 innings.

“It was incredible,” Sanchez said. “It’s an incredible feeling. Amazing. I just go out and give the best of myself. Always focused.”

Bryson Stott, subbing for Schwarber in the leadoff spot, drove in both Phillies runs without getting a hit. The first came when he grounded into a fielder’s choice, the second on a sacrifice fly. But it was the last three hitters in the lineup who set him up.

Merrifield and Stubbs singled in the fifth to put runners on first and third; Merrifield came home from third when Stott grounded into the force. But it was Rojas, in his first game back after a stretch with the IronPigs, who practically manufactured the insurance run in the eighth all by himself.

He led off with what looked like a routine single to center. But when Vidal Brujan ambled up to play the ball instead of charging it, Rojas raced to second for a hustle double. He aggressively moved up on a wild pitch, putting himself in a position to come home when Stott flied out to left.

“Sometimes, in the near future at least, we might have to create some stuff,” Thomson said. “I told him when he came in, ‘Just play like you did in Triple-A.’ That’s it. Be aggressive but under control. And he did.”

The Phillies may have to patch some things together for the next couple weeks. Then again, it’s easier to have patience when you have an 8-game lead in the division to go along with a rotation that has a 2.90 earned run average.

STATS OF THE DAY: Phillies pitchers have walked a total of five batters in the last eight games.

Shortstop Trea Turner was 10-for-11 in stolen base tries before going on the IL with a strained hamstring on May 4. In 10 games since coming back, he has zero attempts.

Catcher Rafael Marchan, who went yard against Marlins starter Trevor Rogers on Thursday night, has six home runs in 89 career big league at bats. In 1,485 lifetime minor league ABs, he’s hit eight.

UP NEXT: Pitching matchups for the remainder of the Marlins series: RHP Roddery Munoz (1-3, 5.80) vs. RHP Aaron Nola (9-3, 3.39) Saturday at 4:05 p.m. and RHP Yonny Chirinos (0-0, 2.70) vs. LHP Ranger Suarez (10-2, 2.01) Sunday at 1:35 p.m.

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