With no more pressure of a pesky playoff race to worry about, the Phillies were free to play their game and try to grab their first winning record since 2011. It’s small potatoes, of course, nothing to hang their hat on when they were as close to playing meaningful October baseball as they were. Yet with this team, it’s probably something we’ll see touted early and often in the coming days.
Ranger Suarez was on the bump for the Phillies tonight, looking to extend his scoreless streak that he started two starts ago and continued through last weekend’s shutout against Pittsburgh. He would need run support and got some early from the offense when the third inning commenced. Sandy Alcantara, the Marlins starter, hit Andrew Knapp and Suarez to begin the inning, then gave up a single to Odubel Herrera that scored the first run for the team. After Ronald Torreyes struck out for the first out, Bryce Harper stepped up and delivered another notch in his MVP belt, doubling to right-center field to score Suarez.
On the play, Harper rolled his ankle and at the time it looked really bad, but the man stayed in the game to continue his assault on the National League. Brad Miller followed with a walk to load the bases for Didi Gregorius. Gregorius flied out to deep right field that looked like a grand slam to start but fell just shy.
That made the score 3-0, more than enough to support Suarez. As the Phillies were cruising on offense, Suarez was cruising on the mound. Over seven innings, he allowed a few hits, walked only one and struck out nine. He extended his own personal scoreless streak to 21 consecutive innings.
Even though Suarez didn’t need much more help from his offense, he got it anyway. Harper would continue to hit well on the night, cranking his 35th home run to left field that also scored his 100th run on the season.
Later in the game, Matt Vierling - who for some reason didn’t start the game - would take a fastball and drive it deep into left-center field himself, his second home run of the season, one that traveled a very, very long way.
The bullpen duo of Hector Neris and Ian Kennedy would lock down the two innings that Suarez wasn’t able to pitch with relative ease, securing the victory for the Phillies in a town that hasn’t been kind to them in late season games the past few seasons.
It’s not something the team should be bragging about too much. They came into the season with much loftier goals that just beating the .500 mark, but in this season that went all kinds of sideways, it’s still something that shows progress. We’ll have to wait and see if they can build off of it next year, but at least the benchmark has been set. There can be no more finishing with a losing record for the forseeable future. Even a team as inconsistent as this could do better than that.