Phillies Playoffs

Suarez begins NLDS for Phillies for 2nd straight year

NBC Universal, Inc.

It will be Ranger Suárez to get the start in game one of the NLDS against the Braves. He and his manager discuss how their confident heading into Saturday.

The Phillies are turning to Ranger Suarez for Game 1 of the NLDS in Atlanta, just as they did a year ago.

The Phillies had three different choices for Saturday night's start: Suarez, Cristopher Sanchez and Taijuan Walker. The way the series is scheduled, both teams' Game 1 starters can appear again on normal rest for Game 4, while the Game 2 starter could pitch Game 5 on normal rest.

“I think Ranger overall, past numbers (against Atlanta), they're probably the best out of the group,” manager Rob Thomson said. “We all know that the moment's not going to be too big for Ranger. He's a pretty cool cucumber out there. So we're confident in that.”

The Braves will start flame-throwing right-hander Spencer Strider, who led the majors in wins (20) and strikeouts (281) this season, in Game 1. Strider was not healthy and his velocity was down significantly last postseason when he allowed five runs and didn't make it out of the third inning in his NLDS start in Philly. The other eight times he's faced the Phils, he's gone 8-0 with a 1.90 ERA, .151 opponents' batting average and 72 strikeouts in 47⅓ innings.

The key to beating Strider is typically getting to the fastball low and the breaking ball high. He loves to challenge hitters just a bit above the top of the zone with his rising fastball, which is often swung through.

“Just the stuff. I mean, it's just power,” Thomson said. “It's an electric fastball, 96 to 99, the slider's a weapon. And now he's throwing change up to left-hand hitters, and he's throwing strikes. So you have that combination. And he's a bear to handle at times.”

If the Best-of-Five series goes all five games, Atlanta will start Strider in Games 1 and 4 and lefty Max Fried in Games 2 and 5.

The Phillies can use their ace, Zack Wheeler, in Games 2 and 5. Aaron Nola will start Game 3. Game 4 could be Suarez or it could be some sort of opener situation.

There are off days between Games 1 and 2, Games 2 and 3, and Games 4 and 5, so the Phillies can be aggressive with how they utilize their bullpen. It might not be a long start for Suarez in Game 1 unless he's holding the Braves in check.

In going with Suarez for Game 1, the Phillies picked the safest option. They've seen him start in the playoffs before, they've seen him deliver in key moments. He pitched better down the stretch than did Walker, who lasted an inning in his only career playoff start six years ago. Walker also had a 7.04 ERA in the first inning this season, while the 2023 Braves might have been the best first-inning offense the majors have ever seen.

Sanchez, who had a 3.44 ERA in 99⅓ innings, has never appeared in the postseason, and the Phillies will use him out of the bullpen as either a multi-inning or leverage reliever.

Sanchez faced the Braves twice in September, striking out 10 over 7⅓ innings in the first start and allowing three runs in four innings six days later. He's thrown 156 pitches to the Braves over the last three weeks and that recent familiarity could have been a factor in the decision.

Suarez faced the Braves once, back on June 20 at home, and gave up just a run over six innings, striking out seven. He had a 4.18 ERA overall this season in 22 starts, missing 10 because of an elbow injury to begin the season and a hamstring strain in mid-August.

“I feel very happy to be the guy starting for us,” he said. “It's an honor. I know that it hasn't been the best season of my career. I was away for a couple of months due to injuries, but I'm mentally ready for this game. I feel good. I think it's going to be a beautiful day tomorrow.”

Here is the Phillies-Braves NLDS schedule:

Game 1 in Atlanta — Saturday at 6:07 p.m.

Game 2 in Atlanta — Monday at 6:07 p.m.

Game 3 in Philadelphia — Wednesday at 5:07 p.m.

Game 4 in Philadelphia (if necessary) — Thursday at 6:07 p.m.

Game 5 in Atlanta (if necessary) — Saturday at 6:07 p.m.

Exit mobile version