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Phillies column: Seeing similarities between Suarez and Hamels

PHILADELPHIA — In a matter of hours, if not days, Phillies legend Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP will bump into Ranger Suarez, the favorite to win the Cy Young, according to the ESPN Cy Young predictor.

Hamels formally retires with the Phillies in a ceremony Friday at Citizens Bank Park. He still has a place in the suburban Philly area not too far from one of his favorite breakfast places, the Country Deli in suburban Gradyville, which he says he still frequents.

Before Hamels leaves he will stop by the clubhouse he once ruled and say hello to Suarez and maybe, just maybe see himself in his counterpart, who is another lefty fond of off-speed pitches, control and winning.

“Great stuff, great change-up,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said of Hamels, who beat up on him while he coached the Yankees. “I guess a lot like Ranger. He can really locate the change-up and keep you off balance. And a great athlete.”

This certainly is the time to go on about Suarez, whose wife and children saw him live for the first time Wednesday after trekking here from Venezuela, because he’s fast becoming a legend like Hamels.

The Phillies’ pitching has enjoyed a resurgence as well. While Suarez is ranked first in the ESPN Cy Young formula, Zach Wheeler of the Phillies is second and Aaron Nola is fifth.

Not quite the Four Aces with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Hamels and Roy Oswalt, but darn close. Suarez is every bit as special to Thomson, who has helped him evolve into a frontline starter.

Physically, there is no mistaking Hamels (6-4, 205) for Suarez (6-1, 217). But Thomson and others in the Phillies organization see some of those same similarities between the lefties.

Both came up with the Phillies, Hamels as a first-round draft pick and Suarez as an international free agent signee from Venezuela in 2012.

Both pitch very well in the postseason, Hamels earning not only World Series MVP honors in 2008 but NLCS MVP laurels.

And of course, there’s the pitch profile. They aren’t power pitchers but masters of throwing to spots with change-ups that are filthy.

Suarez opened the series finale with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday with a 90-mph sinker. His 80 mph change-up got to the plate slightly faster than catcher Rafael Marchan’s throw to the mound.

The home run Suarez gave up to Jackson Merrill was a sinker that didn’t sink enough.

There is no debate that Hamels, Suarez and Nola are three of the best homegrown Phillies pitchers since Chris Short’s debut in 1959.

For a homegrown starting pitcher, you’d have to go back to Robin Roberts (1948-61, 86.1 WAR) to find a higher WAR than Hamels (58.0), Aaron Nola (32.6), Chris Short (28.7) and Suarez (13.9). The higher the WAR, the greater contribution to their team’s success.

To be sure, Hamels’ WAR strictly with the Phillies was 41.9, according to Baseballreference.com. He played 10 of his 15 MLB seasons with the Fightin’s. Also, Suarez and Nola’s WAR will continue to ascend unless they hit the wall.

If Suarez has a career like Hamels, who played for the Phillies from 2006-15, he’ll take his place with the Phillies’ greats.

Slated to attend the retirement ceremony for Hamels, 40, are former teammates Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton and Carlos Ruiz. Manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee will be there as well.

Hamels is the last active player from the 2008 World Series championship team to retire from Major League Baseball.

Suarez threw six innings Wednesday. He allowed just six hits, one run, no walks and struck out four. The last man he faced, Donovan Solano, struck out swinging on a 75 mph. curveball with two runners on. That was ugly.

Suarez threw 94 pitches, 67 of those for strikes. Just 41 of those pitches hit 90 mph on the radar gun.

“He was really good,” Thomson said. “First pitch strikes. His stuff was good. His command was good. His breaking ball, change-up, everything.”

Suarez and the Phillies were victimized by an eighth inning of questionable decisions and misplays in the field leading to a 5-2 loss to the Padres.

Alex Bohm committed an error and gave up another out as well when a groundball played him, enabling Manny Machado to leg out and infield hit.

With two outs, centerfielder Brandon Marsh, replacing Johan Rojas, who was sent to the minors dove but was unable to get to a line drive by Kyle Higashioka for a three-run triple.

More than balls and strikes, Suarez was glad to have his wife and children around not just for the game but through the weekend.

“I’m really happy that they’re here enjoying the game with me,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “It’s nice to see your family watching you pitch. We lost today, but we won the series and that’s important.”

If Suarez pitches the way he has, his family better make reservations for a return trip.


Source: Berkshire mont

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