It was all shaping up so nicely for the Phillies on Sunday afternoon.
Trea Turner homered again.
Kyle Schwarber homered again.
Ranger Suarez hadn't allowed a hit through six innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts.
Then Suarez lost the no-hitter with one out in the seventh inning and the game quickly unraveled. Suarez allowed a second straight double that plated two runs, and Matt Strahm was unable to strand the inherited runner. The Marlins tied the game and took a lead on Seranthony Dominguez an inning later to beat the Phillies, 5-4.
On Friday night, the Phillies led by two when Dominguez gave up a game-tying home run to Jesus Sanchez. On Sunday, he was taken out to center by Bryan De La Cruz.
“His command, he doesn’t have it right now,” manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to figure that one out because for us to get where we want to go, he’s got to be one of our top right-handed setup men. He’s not commanding the baseball right now so we’ve got to fix it.”
The Phils lead the Cubs by three games in the loss column for the top National League wild-card spot and also own the tiebreaker. They are 78-64 with 20 games left. They led by multiple runs entering the sixth inning in all three games against Miami yet lost the weekend series.
Dominguez has a 4.25 ERA with four losses and seven blown saves this season. He has just eight strikeouts in his last 11 innings. During that stretch, the swinging strike rate on his fastball is down from 19% to 12% and the whiff rate on his slider is down from 22% to 13%.
The Phillies need to get him right before the playoffs. Their bullpen has been one of the best in baseball since June 1 but pitchers like Dominguez, Jose Alvarado and Gregory Soto have shown signs of slippage. Soto has allowed nine runs in his last 9⅓ innings and Alvarado has walked six in 7⅓ innings since returning from his latest bout of elbow inflammation.
“I have plenty of confidence in Dominguez. He’s a hard worker, always looking for ways to improve, little tweaks,” Suarez said. “I have plenty of confidence in him and the team has plenty of confidence in him.”
The Phillies were 22-12 in one-run games at one point but have lost eight of their last nine.
Suarez kept the Marlins totally off balance through six innings, putting only two men on base with walks. He had one of his best changeups of the season, he kept his sinker low and jammed righties inside with his cutter.
The lefty has a 3.93 ERA in 19 starts this season. He figures to make three more starts in the regular season. The role he fills in the playoffs remains to be seen. Last October, Suarez started in the NLDS and NLCS, closed out the final game of the NLCS, appeared in relief in Game 1 of the World Series and started Game 3 against the Astros.
The Phillies didn't have Soto and Strahm behind Alvarado last year, though. That could impact Suarez' usage in October. The Phils are 20-7 behind Taijuan Walker but he hasn't been sharp in his last four starts. Michael Lorenzen has been hit hard since the no-hitter and both he and Cristopher Sanchez are about 30 innings beyond their prior career-highs. If Suarez pitches well over his next three outings, he could be the answer in Game 3 of a wild-card playoff series, if necessary.
Turner homered two pitches into the bottom of the first inning to provide the Phillies an early lead Sunday. Schwarber homered two innings later for his 43rd of the season. He has 16 homers in his last 30 games while Turner has 14 homers in his last 30. The simple math tells you that's basically a homer from one of them every night for a month.
Schwarber had a chance to give the Phillies a late lead Sunday when he came up with runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth but struck out. Turner was hit by a pitch and Bryce Harper walked to put the tying and winning runs on base with no outs in the ninth, but Alec Bohm grounded into a double play and Bryson Stott struck out to end the game.
A split doubleheader Monday opens the Phillies' four-game home series with the Braves. Walker and Lorenzen will start for the Phils.
“It’s going to be tough,” Thomson said. “Two really good teams going at it. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day but we’ve just got to grind through it.”