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What have we learned? Phillies 2, Dodgers 1

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Did a series against the defending champs really teach us anything?

Los Angeles Dodgers v Philadelphia Phillies
One of these guys had a good game
Photo by Cody Glenn/Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.