Ranger Suarez rising to stardom with ‘mind-boggling’ start to 2024 season

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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)

PHILADELPHIA — Through the first three innings of the Philadelphia Phillies’ showdown with the Texas Rangers, Ranger Suarez had thrown 59 pitches. He only gave up one run but it looked as though his proficiency in getting outs would come at the cost of not going as deep into the game.

Ranger Suarez is only getting better as time goes on

But, as Suarez has done all season, he shook off the expectations and dominated. The Phillies’ No. 3 starter threw 49 pitches over four more innings and shut the hose off completely for the Rangers’ offense. Philly went on to win 5-2 in their first matchup of the season against the defending champions.

“It’s kind of mind-boggling, the historic run that he’s been on,” Rob Thomson said after the game. “He’s been pitching great and, knock on wood, he keeps it going. I was a little concerned early — eh, not concerned but a lot of deep counts early, 59 pitches after three innings. And then after the third inning, he just really settled in, really started commanding the baseball.”

Indeed, the Rangers got deep into the count consistently. Of the first 12 batters Suarez faced, eight saw at least five pitches. The highlight was an eight-pitch battle with Leody Taveras that ended in a popout. He got his pitch count back to a reasonable amount with a few three-or-four-pitch strikeouts. He finished the fourth inning in only eight pitches. He got ahead in counts and drew groundballs that his infield took care of.

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Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez (55) delivers during the first inning of Game 1 of a baseball NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Ranger Suarez might have bent but he never broke, preventing the floodgates from opening for Texas’ bats. He tossed 108 pitches (70 strikes) in seven innings while allowing just one run, five hits and two walks and notching 10 Ks, a season-high and career-high-matching total.

Thomson said that it speaks to Suarez’s maturity that he navigated a high pitch count and still went deep into the game. The Phillies manager pointed to his changeup as one of the stars of the show, a pitch that was “really good” against a star-studded Rangers lineup. He threw it 14 times, generating three whiffs and only one ball hit into play, a flyout from Marcus Semien. Thomson also liked Suarez’s curveball, of which he threw 19 and allowed just two balls in play.

Suarez’s ERA after 10 starts and 66.0 innings (the most of anyone in MLB) sits at 1.36. Only Chicago Cubs starter Shota Imanaga has him beat on the qualified leaderboard but Suarez has completed over 12 more innings so far. Over the last five seasons, only four pitchers have surpassed Ranger’s inning count through their first 10 starts to a season. Only one of those four – his teammate, Zack Wheeler, in 2021 — matched the 68 strikeouts Suarez has so far. None of them had an ERA below 2.00.

“He’s really been as consistent as anyone in baseball,” Thomson said.

Phillies fans are rallying behind Ranger Suarez

Historically a fan favorite for his unshakable confidence in huge moments and nonchalant yet impeccable defense on the mound, Ranger Suarez has a section of Citizens Bank Park — on the third deck in right field — dedicated to him featuring fans that wear Power Rangers gear to show their love for the rising star. He noticed the love and made sure he reciprocated through his performance.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 22: Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Ranger Suarez (55) delivers during the Major League Baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies on May 22, 2021 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

“That’s something that brings a lot of joy to me and it’s something really exciting,” Suarez said in the clubhouse through team interpreter Diego D’Aniello. “I try to give back on that excitement and that joy that they bring me, as well.”

The future is bright

The Phillies’ two-headed monster of starting pitching has morphed into a true three-headed beast with Suarez coming into his own alongside Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Opposing lineups have gotten ripped to shreds by the fearsome trio, who themselves are backed up by solid pitching at the end of the rotation and a bullpen that has numerous quality options.

On a team with splashy free-agency signings and decorated veterans with All-Star nominations, Ranger Suarez — who is in just his third season as a full-time starter — is becoming one of the biggest names and most effective players. His first All-Star team is well within reach and he certainly seems capable of amounting to more.

Thomson, tapping into the feelings of Phillies fans everywhere, said that it’s “really fun” to watch Ranger Suarez go to work with his “old school” style of pitching. “It’s not gonna light up the radar gun but he’s gonna command the baseball. He’s gonna work fast. He can change speeds behind the count,” he added.

Ranger Suarez has been off on an adventure of heights unforeseen by even his biggest supporters in the 2024 season. His efforts are going a long way in showing why the Phillies can take the journey to where the Rangers went last fall: the baseball mountaintop.

(Photo Credit – AP)