Ranger Suarez knew very early Tuesday had a chance to be a special night


Credit Mother Nature for the assist.

Who knows how Game 3 of the World Series would have played out if there was no rainout Monday night that allowed the Phillies to move Ranger Suarez up in the rotation?

Suarez was initially supposed to start Game 4 after appearing in relief Friday in Game 1. Noah Syndergaard was ready to start Game 3 before it was postponed.

But the altered schedule put manager Rob Thomson and the Phillies in position to use their better arms earlier in the series, with Suarez starting Game 3 opposite Lance McCullers Jr. and Aaron Nola going Wednesday in Game 4. Not only did the schedule change help the Phils in a pivotal Game 3, but it also means Suarez will be ready for Game 7 on regular rest if needed.

Based on what they saw Tuesday night, what they've seen from Suarez in these playoffs and for the better part of the last two years, that should make them more than comfortable.

Suarez has a 1.23 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in five playoff appearances after beating the Astros with five scoreless innings in a 7-0 win that gave the Phils a series lead. The Phillies have won every game he's entered this postseason.

"I'm never shocked when Ranger goes out and does that," said Bryce Harper, whose two-run homer in the first inning sent the Citizens Bank Park crowd into a three-hour frenzy.

"It's just who he is, he's a no-heartbeat guy. When they announced his name (pregame), he probably had no idea they were even announcing him and people were going crazy because that's just how he is. His demeanor out there, he just pitches to his strengths and his ability. It's always fun to see him get a groundball or line drive hit back to him. He's so at ease about everything he does. He's just fun to watch."

Suarez went only five innings for several reasons. The Phillies led comfortably, he was working on three days' rest and he hasn't gone more than five since September 29. 

He retired the first five batters he faced, allowed back-to-back singles, then set down nine in a row. Houston had two men on with two outs in the fifth inning, down four, but Suarez popped Jose Altuve up to second base to end the threat.

Suarez did an exceptional job against the formidable top half of the Astros' lineup. Altuve, Jeremy Peña, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker went a combined 0 for 11 against him with only two balls leaving the infield.

His start has been the best by a Phillie in this World Series after Nola and Zack Wheeler each allowed five runs in the first two games.

The whole night might have been different if not for another stellar sliding grab by Nick Castellanos, who isn't known for his defense but has helped the Phillies in the field all month.

Altuve popped a ball into shallow right and Castellanos immediately broke in, resulting in a one-pitch out to start the game. Suarez retired Peña with a groundball to short on his next pitch and was out of the inning quickly after punching out Alvarez.

"That was an incredible play to start the game," Suarez said. "It actually made me think, 'If we're starting like this, we're only going to finish even better.' I had great defense throughout the whole game -- (Alec) Bohm, the middle infielders, Casty, they all did a really good job."

Castellanos' catch was as much of a tone-setter as Harper's homer in the bottom of the first. The help Suarez received defensively and offensively set him up for success against an Astros offense that clearly wanted to attack him early.

"Incredible," J.T. Realmuto said. "If that ball falls it could change the entire game. It was such a momentum builder for us and for Ranger. If Altuve starts off the game with another hit, first pitch, there's no telling how that game ends up going."

Suarez mixed in his changeup well, hit corners and kept the ball inside against Houston's tough right-handed hitters. Astros manager Dusty Baker described him as "effectively wild."

Much has been made of Suarez' slow heartbeat. It's something Phillies fans have grown accustomed to but is now being displayed on the national stage. Thomson, Suarez and his teammates have been asked for weeks about the lefty's ability to seamlessly bounce between roles and perform in high-pressure situations as if he's lounging in a recliner wearing a bathrobe.

"The poise is through the roof," Thomson said. "Nothing really bothers him. Doesn't matter what scenario we're in."

The scenario the Phillies are now in is simple: win two more games and they're World Champions. The Phils are now favored to win the World Series. They have Nola going in Game 4 with a chance to take a commanding lead, and better yet, they were able to avoid using each of their top four relievers Tuesday night. Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, Zach Eflin and David Robertson all had the night off. Alvarado warmed up in the fifth and Dominguez in the eighth but the Phillies extended their lead to the point they didn't need Alvarado, and Nick Nelson was able to wiggle out of a jam to keep Dominguez in the bullpen.

"I feel good about it because we have some guys rested, for sure," Thomson said. "But everybody we've used so far has really pitched well, really executed."

The Phillies have shut out three different teams this postseason: the Cardinals, Padres and Astros. At home, they are undefeated and have outscored their opponents 42-15.

The mission is far from accomplished, but these guys are starting to smell it.

"Ever since I signed with the Phillies (in 2012), I dreamt about making it to a World Series, and look at us now. We are here," Suarez said.

"It's not only something that I want, I know that the city of Philadelphia also wants it. I'm very happy for them too."

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