Craig Kimbrel

A major key in Phillies' June turnaround

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Three of the four best records in the majors in the month of June belong to NL East teams.

The Braves are 17-4. The Giants are 16-6. The Marlins are 16-7. The Phillies are 15-7.

The Braves look like the best team in the National League and maybe the best team in baseball. Their lineup is stacked and their lead over the Phillies feels every bit of 10 games, if not more. They're just bludgeoning teams, averaging more than 8.0 runs per game over their last 11.

But Atlanta is also winning close games, pulling out 7-6 victories Saturday and Sunday over the surging Reds.

In addition to owning three of the top four records in MLB this month, the Phillies, Braves and Marlins also have three of the top four records in one-run games this season.

The Marlins are 19-5. The Brewers are 12-4. The Phillies are 17-7. The Braves are 15-9.

The Phillies' 7-6, comeback win Sunday afternoon over the Mets was their 10th win in their last 11 one-run games. It was the sixth time this month that Craig Kimbrel finished a one-run win. He's done so in nine of his last 15 appearances. He deserves a ton of credit in the Phils' turnaround. Kimbrel has allowed a lone run in his last 11 outings and three in 19 games since giving up a walk-off grand slam to Max Muncy at Dodger Stadium on May 3. He's been a solid closer in 2023.

The team on the other side of Sunday's wild finish, the Mets, is experiencing first-hand what can happen to a thin bullpen. They have one trusted reliever, closer David Robertson. He recorded the final five outs Saturday, albeit on only 13 pitches thanks to two double-play balls. Mets manager Buck Showalter has pushed Robertson beyond an inning seven times this season out of necessity, and all seven times, Robertson has not been used the next day. Showalter was clearly trying to stay away from Robertson Sunday and watched as lefty Josh Walker and righty Jeff Brigham, relievers who weren't on the team to begin the season, couldn't command the baseball in a four-run eighth inning that included only one hit.

The bullpens of the Phillies (4.17) and Mets (4.22) have similar ERAs but the Mets don't have relievers with the stuff of Jose Alvarado, Gregory Soto, Seranthony Dominguez or Kimbrel. They have the reliability of Robertson but there are certain restrictions on the 38-year-old's usage, and it's just hard to imagine the Mets making any sort of wild-card push without addressing the cast of characters in front of him.

The Phillies' core four relievers — Kimbrel, Alvarado, Soto and Dominguez — have combined for 125 appearances this season and have not allowed an earned run in 101 of them, a success rate of 81%. Kimbrel, Alvarado and Soto have a 1.69 ERA in June, collectively. The Phillies hope to have Dominguez back from an oblique strain in early July.

The lineup still has not produced the power that was expected and the Phillies have needed this level of execution from the pitching staff to win 15 of their last 20 games.

Another integral piece in the team's success the last three weeks, Ranger Suarez, pitches the series opener Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. He has a 1.38 ERA over his last five starts, averaging 6.5 innings.

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