Phillies News

Ranger Suárez always looking ahead in spite of unimaginable start to the season

Suárez picked up his league-leading 9th win of the season to remain undefeated in the Phillies' Tuesday night win over the Rangers.

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If their offense hadn’t gone AWOL at the worst possible time, the Phillies almost certainly would have won the 2023 NLCS and advanced to the World Series against the Texas Rangers last October.

That would have added some juice to Tuesday night’s proceeding at Citizens Bank Park.

If the defending world champion Rangers hadn’t suffered a run of buzzard’s luck with injuries this year, it probably would have been the first time since the opening series against Atlanta that the Phillies faced an opponent that would give themselves an opportunity to measure themselves against another one of the best teams in baseball. That would have been fun.

Then again, as former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi used to say, if my aunt had wheels she’d be a teacart. That’s the G-rated version anyway.

As it turned out, none of that mattered. Early National League Cy Young frontrunner Ranger Suárez is worth the price of admission all by himself.

Ranger beat the Rangers, 5-2.

He raised his record to 9-0. His earned run average is 1.36. He’s the first pitcher since Hall of Famer Juan Marichal in 1966 to win his first nine decisions with an ERA under 1.50.

“It’s kind of mind-boggling, you know,” manager Rob Thomson said. “The historic run that he’s been on. He’s just been pitching great. And, knock on wood, he keeps it going.”

He gave up his first earned run since May 4 against the Giants on Tuesday night. Earlier in the season he had a 32-inning scoreless streak.

His WHIP is 0.79. Opponents are batting .174 against him. He’s pitched at least seven innings five times, including Tuesday, when he matched his career-high with 10 strikeouts.

Not to get carried away, but if he maintains anything near this level of excellence, pretty soon even Roget will run out of superlatives to describe him.

And, outwardly at least, he comes across as the least impressed person in the world about what he’s been able to accomplish.

He was asked what he thought of being mentioned in the same sentence as pitchers with plaques in Cooperstown. “No, I just try to go do the best work I can.” He said through interpreter Diego D’Aniello. “Keep the game close so the team can try to get a win. That’s the most important thing.”

Does he allow himself to reflect on the magnitude of what he’s accomplished so far? “Each time I go out on the mound, I enjoy my outings. I enjoy the results that we get. I enjoy the wins we get as a team. But the day after that, I forget about everything because I have to focus on my next start, the next thing I have to do.”

Is he starting to be recognized more off the field. “Just as always,” he said. Although his laugh suggested that, just maybe, he was beginning to attract more attention when he’s out and about.

The one thing he did brighten at was the mention of a fan group, the Power Rangers, who have nested in the third deck in right field when he pitches at home. It’s a throwback to the final days of the Vet when the (Vicente) Padilla Flotilla, (Robert) Person’s People and, of course, the (Randy) Wolf Pack became fixtures.

“I saw them during my warm-up,” he said. “I tried to look over and there they were. That brings a lot of joy to me. It’s really exciting and I try to give back that joy that they bring me.”

Suárez struck out five in the first two innings, He gave up that run in the third and a leadoff double to catcher Johnah Heim in the fourth, but after that didn’t allow another runner past first.

Texas starter Jon Gray, who entered the game with a 2.08 ERA, sailed into the third when he walked Brandon Marsh leading off. Johan Rojas was retired on a sharp comebacker to the mound, bringing the Rangers medical staff out to make sure he hadn’t been injured. After a few moments of discussion he stayed in the game, but wasn’t as effective for the rest of the night.

Marsh ended up scoring. The Phillies scored the go-ahead run in the fourth. Gray was gone after five. He allowed just the two runs but, had it not been for two good defensive plays by leftfielder Ezequiel Duran and a line drive hit right at first baseman Nathaniel Lowe that turned a potential RBI double into a double play, it could have been a lot of worse.

Then again, the way Ranger Suarez was pitching, it didn’t seem to matter.

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