Before Thursday’s game against the Dodgers, there was some opining on social media that the previous two games against the defending champs taught us something about the Phillies. The implication was that the something we learned wasn’t good, and that their eight-game winning streak didn’t necessarily make the Phillies a good team, but rather one that took advantage of inferior competition. If that was indeed the case (and it probably wasn’t), then it stands to reason that we also learned a thing or two about the Phillies in their 2-1 win on Thursday.
So what did we learn (or re-learn) on Thursday?
Ranger Suarez is good in any role you put him in
It’s amazing that Suarez didn’t start the season with the team since he’s been one of their best pitchers regardless of the role he’s asked to fill. His current role is starting pitcher, and while he’s not stretched out enough to go deep into games - hopefully that will improve as he goes on - he has still given the Phillies quality innings. On Thursday, he gave them 4.1 innings, only allowing one run (due to an inherited runner because the Phillies remain unable to strand those).
Bryce Harper will be in the MVP discussion
After a quiet first two games of the series, Bryce Harper got the Phillies on the board with a solo home run in the first inning.
He might not be in running for MVP, but Ronald Torreyes has been very valuable
The Phillies’ super-sub continued to help the team, chipping in an RBI single in the fourth.
There is a debate no one wants to have because it is a debate that would end the universe: 2010 Wilson Valdez or 2021 Ronald Torreyes?— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) August 12, 2021
The team needs J.T. Realmuto healthy
After leaving Wednesday’s game prematurely, Realmuto passed concussion protocols, but he was still held out of action for Thursday. That proved unfortunate because Andrew Knapp had a really bad game in his stead. Knapp was 0-3, and on two separate occasions, made the third out with the bases loaded. In the second of those, he appeared to injure himself, although he did remain in the game.
He also did a poor job framing pitches in the final inning, but we’ll get to that later.
Andrew Knapp had a 21.3 K% last season, but that figure is now over 37% this season as his OPS has dropped to .456.— Bob Wankel (@BobWankelCB) August 12, 2021
The back end of the bullpen isn’t a weakness at the moment
In Hector Neris, Archie Bradley, and Ian Kennedy, the Phillies have three relievers who have been effective at closing out wins in the final innings. On Thursday, Neris pitched a clean inning before succumbing to the intense heat. Bradley covered the next two innings without allowing a runner, and then Kennedy recorded five outs in the ninth to get the save.
And yes, I said five outs, because home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez twice ruled what should have been strike three as a ball. Fortunately, Kennedy worked out of the resulting bases loaded jam.
Alfonso Marquez gives the Dodgers two free 3-2 walks on DIMES from Ian Kennedy. Joe Girardi ejected pic.twitter.com/WjIHfA4X9Z— Shaun Nestor (@shaun_nestor) August 12, 2021
The Phillies will remain in first place for another day
Pending the events of Thursday night’s Braves-Reds game, the Phillies are half a game up in the East. At the very least they’ll head into this weekend’s series against the Reds tied for the lead.