Game Recap: Phillies take down the Champs, 5-2.

Phillies ranger suarez
Philadelphia Phillies’ Ranger Suarez pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Phillies (35-14) welcomed the Texas Rangers (24-25) to Citizens Bank Park for a three-game series. With their first crack at the defending champions on a sunny Tuesday night following an off day, the Phillies took it to them and won 5-2.

Despite a lackluster start to the 2024 campaign (which is due in large part to a swatch of pitching injuries), the Rangers are not to be taken lightly. They made Ranger Suarez work and made some big-time plays throughout the game. But in the end, the Phillies terminated their 10-year, 12-game losing streak to the Rangers.

Rob Thomson heaped loads of praise on Suarez before the game, laying out his “phenomenal” season ahead of his 10th start of 2024.

“The breaking ball’s sharper. He’s locating better. He’s getting the fastball to his glove side. He’s pounding it in on right-hand hitters which is really effective for him. The changeup’s been good. Every part of his arsenal’s been really good,” Thomson said.

Suarez faced a Texas lineup that did not feature reigning ALCS MVP Adolis Garcia, who is dealing with a forearm injury, or standout rookie Evan Carter, whose hitting against lefties has been bad — .284 OPS levels of bad. Still, the bulk of a World Series-winning core stared him down. And he stared right back at them and tossed a gem.

Ranger Danger

Ranger struck out Marcus Semien on seven pitches to start the game and got into two-strike counts by the third pitch of the plate appearance against each of the first three batters. Texas may have only gotten one runner on base (a walk from Robbie Grossman) but pushed Suarez’s pitch count to 22 by the conclusion of the opening inning. He bounced back by striking out the side in 13 pitches in the second.

Derek Hill led off the third inning by singling up the middle, recording the first hit of the game for either team. He stole second base for his first steal of the season. After an eight-pitch at-bat from Leody Taveras that ended in a pop-up to shallow center field, a double down the left-field line from Semien sent him home for the game’s first score.

Hill added to his nice performance when he lined a single just over the infield in the top of the fifth. But Suarez didn’t allow any further damage, striking Corey Seager out for the third time to end the inning and record his seventh strikeout.

Although Texas only got one across in the first three innings, they had given Suarez a good fight, working the count and forcing him to throw 59 pitches by the end of the third inning. Coming into the game, his starts averaged 92.4 total pitches in roughly 6.5 innings (59.0 over his nine starts). When he started the seventh inning, he was at 89 pitches. He got a 4-6-3 double play and, after once again allowing Hill on base with a walk, notched his 10th strikeout of the night and exited the game to rousing applause from the crowd of over 41,000.

Phillies ranger suarez
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez throws to an Atlanta Braves during the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Suarez’s second career game with double-digit Ks took 108 pitches but went seven innings and allowed just one run, five hits and two walks. He mostly utilized his sinker (42 pitches, topping out at 93.0 mph) while also regularly going to his four-seam fastball and curveball.

Jeff Hoffman was first out of the ‘pen and allowed a solo home run to Seager that deprived the Phillies of some breathing room and one fan of their nachos and drinks. Hoffman allowed a pair of singles and Matt Strahm was called on to clean up the mess. Nathaniel Lowe struck a line drive 102.4 mph off the bat but it traveled right at Brandon Marsh, getting the Phillies out of the jam.

Jose Alvarado got the call in the ninth inning, looking a little shaky after a throwing error from Bohm cost him the second out of the inning. He struck Semien and Seager out to close it out.

Teamwork makes the dream work…mostly

With a donut still in the Phillies’ scoring column to begin the bottom of the third inning, Marsh drew a walk. Johan Rojas fouled a bunt on his first pitch and then grounded out on a 96.7-mph shot right at Texas starter Jon Gray’s leg, essentially getting what he came for by advancing Marsh into scoring position for the top of the order. Gray took a few pitches to collect himself and for the Texas medical staff to evaluate him before surrendering an RBI single to Kyle Schwarber.

Bryce Harper led off the next inning with a double down the right-center gap. The supreme baseball deity who effortlessly smacks hits with runners in scoring position — the one who goes by the name of Alec Bohm — singled Harper home to give the Phils the lead. Bohmer even came through on the base paths with a deke that forced Semien to think twice on a grounder, leading to just one out instead of a double play. Philly wouldn’t add any more to its lead at that point, though.

The Phillies showed they can be more than just a ball-go-boom team with its early scoring. Then, in the sixth inning, Harper blasted a 422-foot bomb to straightaway center field for his 11th home run of the season. So, yeah, sometimes it’s nice to just launch homers.

In the eighth inning, Bohm once again registered an RBI knock after a pair of singles from Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto. Bryson Stott sent Realmuto home with a sacrifice fly to left field. The Phillies went into the ninth inning with a three-run lead.

The Phillies’ offensive production was incredibly top-heavy in this game. Four of the last five hitters in the lineup combined for no hits and no walks. Marsh walked twice and Stott contributed a sac fly, at least.

JT Realmuto
Philadelphia Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto drives in a run with a triple in the third inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Better luck next time, J.T.

Realmuto got an extra day off after sitting the finale of the last series against the Washington Nationals. It seemed to have worked, though he was the victim of some brutal batted-ball luck that left him with fewer hits than he could have had.

The first plate appearance for the Phillies’ backstop ended in a sharp, 384-foot flyout that had an exit velocity of 101.2 mph and an expected batting average of .500. Realmuto ended the third inning by lining out to Lowe for an unassisted double play. It wasn’t struck super hard but it did have an XBA of .310.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Realmuto struck a line drive with an XBA of .930 to left field. It mercifully found the outfield grass and gave Marsh a great chance to score from second base. But Rangers left fielder Ezequiel Duran uncorked a spectacular throw right to home to get the third out of the inning. It did at least extend Realmuto’s streak of consecutive games with a hit to 11. And he did eventually get a hit without a subsequent out when he singled in the eighth inning.

The Phillies will continue their series with the Rangers on Saturday at 6:40 EDT. Taijuan Walker will start for the Fightins while Texas’ starter has yet to be announced.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)