PHILADELPHIA — What you see in a quick glance of Ranger Suarez’s postseason stat line is all you need to know about the way manager Rob Thomson has gently handled him to extreme.
Suarez is like a cool, hard rock. This playoff season, he’s had three starts, allowing seven hits and only one earned run, striking out 13 batters and walking but two. And yet … Suarez has been allowed to pitch only 14 innings.
It’s not an unusual case for him, as Suarez found himself taken from games early probably too many times during the regular season. Now he faces what could be the most crucial start of his career, a Game 7 Tuesday night for all the NLCS marbles at Citizens Bank Park.
“Tomorrow, it’s like a World Series game,” Suarez said after the Phillies’ 5-1 loss in Game 6 Monday. “It’s win or go home. We’re going to be ready. We’re going to give it 100 percent.”
A sturdy force in the middle of the rotation last season, Suarez struggled mightily this year, probably the result of lingering inflammation in his throwing arm which delayed the start of his season. But he finished relatively strong en route to a 4-6 record and 4.18 ERA, in a season where he averaged about 5.2 innings pitched over 22 starts.
In the three postseason starts, he’s looked more like the Suarez the Phillies could count on, and in Game 3 of this NLCS appeared largely unhittable. And yet, after going one out deep into the sixth inning of a game in which he’d only allowed three hits and no runs with seven strikeouts, Suarez was pulled again.
Craig Kimbrel promptly melted down in the ninth as the Phillies lost that game to the Diamondbacks, 2-1.
Suarez, who had a career-high 155.1 innings pitched in his first full season as a starter in 2022, could easily question why the early hook came his way again, no?
“No. No, no, no,” Suarez didn’t have to say through the team translator. “What is in the past is in the past. There’s no way to change it. I’m just focused on tomorrow. I think it’s going to be a great day; we’re all focused on tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what happened in today’s game or my last outing or anything.”
Known primarily as a relaxed soul in the clubhouse, Suarez has gained a reputation for taking that cool demeanor onto the mound with him. Never is that trait more vital than Tuesday night.
“It’s definitely contagious,” Nick Castellanos, he of the 1-for-20 NLCS slump, said of Suarez. “I think he’s right man, right spot, and I know we’re all excited for him to take the mound tomorrow.”
“Anytime you’ve got Ranger on the bump, you’ve got a really good chance to win,” Bryce Harper added. “He’s got a really good mindset out there and we know he can go as long as he can and get the job done for us.”
Suarez is in this position because for the first time, really, in these playoffs the Phillies collectively came up small at the plate at home. Having Aaron Nola swing back to the guy who gave up too many home runs in the regular season didn’t help, either.
Nola gave up back-to-back bombs to Tommy Pham and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the second inning to set the tone for Game 6. Indeed, it could have been the last time Nola pitched for the Phillies, though he put that in perspective.
“I haven’t really thought about that,” he said. “I’ve been too caught up in (the games).”
He’ll be caught up along with a building full of Phillies fans Tuesday night, when the first Game 7 in franchise history takes place, and with perhaps the calmest guy around on the mound.
For how long, though?
“There’s always a first time. It’s my turn now. I’m excited to be on the mound tomorrow,” Suarez said. “It’s a Game 7. There’s going to be some pressure. But we have to not think about it; just play our game and that’s it.”
Source: Berkshire mont