Phillies News

Phillies offense continues to have Taijuan Walker's back whenever he takes the mound

Walker went just 4.2 innings Wednesday night but it didn't matter with the offense exploding in their 11-4 victory over the Rangers.

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If it’s sunny during the week, it’s sure to rain all weekend.

Choose the shortest line and the longer queue is sure to move faster.

If Taijuan Walker starts for the Phillies, they’re sure to score tons of runs.

These are the things we just know in our bones. Articles of faith, even if they can’t be proven. Well, except for maybe the one about Walker.

His turn came up Tuesday night. The Phillies pounded the Rangers, 11-4. Before 39,995 at Citizens Bank Park. Of course they did. This is such a safe bet by now that you could almost set your watch by it. Well, you could if people still wore watches that need to be set.

He’s made 36 starts in a Phillies uniform since signing that 4-year, $72 million free agent contract before the 2023 season. In 28 of them – 77.8 percent – the lineup has produced four or more runs. The numbers have been even more eye-popping to this point in 2024. Reading from left to right, his teammates have scored 8, 5, 8, 5 and now 11 times in his outings.

The pivotal hit was a three-run homer by Edmundo Sosa in the fourth, which padded the Phillies' lead. Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto had solo homers. Realmuto added a two-run single in the sixth and has now hit in 12 straight games.

The Phils won their fifth straight, benefiting both from flexing their offensive muscles and taking advantage of an undefending-world-champion-like four errors committed by the defending world champions.

More impressively, since an 8-8 start, they’ve gone 28-6. That’s an almost unfathomable .824 winning percentage that’s been sustained for more than five weeks. They’re 22 games over .500. Yes, it’s not even June yet. But, as unimaginable as it seems at the moment, if they only played .500 the rest of the way they’d still win 92 games.

They’re off to the best start after 50 games in the 142-year history of this charter National League franchise. The last team to be 36-14 at this point was the 2001 Seattle Mariners, which led to this postgame exchange with manager Rob Thomson.

“This is the best 50-game start since the 2001 Mariners.”

“What did they do?”

“They won 116 games.”

“But what did they do at the end?”

“They did not win the championship.”

“That’s right. So you’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to keep pushing all the way through.”

He was speaking to the media, but left the clear impression that he was really addressing the clubhouse, warning against complacency and overconfidence.

The only ant in the sugar jar on this summery South Philadelphia evening was that Walker didn’t get the win. He didn’t get the win because he didn’t pitch the requisite five innings to qualify. Despite a 6-3 lead, needing only one more out in the bottom of the fifth, he was lifted in favor of lefthander Matt Strahm.

His final line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 W, 5 SO. He threw 86 pitches, 52 for strikes.

The fast start allows the manager to have patience with the veteran righthander, but Walker’s 5.06 earned run average is by far the highest among the starters. If the race tightens, which is always a possibility, that could become an issue unless he picks up his game.

It’s not out of the question that Thomson was also sending a message to the pitcher both by taking him out of the game at that point and then saying pointedly: “He had a win sitting right there in front of him but I felt like that was just the time we needed to stop it.”

Said Realmuto: “His command’s a little off. He’s not quite throwing the ball where he wants to all the time. He’s falling behind some hitters. Too many 2-0, 2-1 counts. If you can’t flip those it can make a huge difference. For me it’s just being a little more aggressive with his pitches in the zone and getting ahead of guys.”

Walker, who had literally been knocked out of his previous start when struck by a line drive on his left big toe, did not mention that as a factor in his performance.

“I feel like I didn’t do my job,” he said. “Four walks isn’t going to cut it. It was a pretty good team win, but I’m frustrated with my performance.”

He added that it’s comforting to have one of baseball’s best offenses behind him. “I think the biggest thing is trying to limit how many runs you give up early,” he said. “If you give up two or three runs, any moment our team is going to break out. As a starting pitcher, it’s nice.

“I’ll be better next time out.”

NOTABLE: Lefthanded reliever Matt Strahm extended his scoreless streak to 20.1 innings Wednesday night. “He’s been a godsend,” Thomson said. . .Reliever Yunior Marte (shoulder inflammation) threw live batting practice Thursday. Rangers LHP Andrew Heaney (0-5, 4.43) will face RHP Zack Wheeler (5-3, 2.52) in the series finale Thursday at 1:05 p.m. . . .The Phillies will leave immediately after the game to play three-game series at Colorado and San Francisco. “He located really well,” Rob Thomson said. “Ball was jumping out of his hand. We’ve got to map it out, but I think he’s ready (for a rehab assignment).”

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