Suárez scoreless in G3 start: ‘No moment is too big for him’

November 2nd, 2022

PHILADELPHIA — This time, the unorthodox was unnecessary.

The Phillies did not need Ranger Suárez to pitch out of the bullpen in World Series Game 3. They did not need to keep his outing short, nor to use him on his throw day, nor to provide any of the stunts that have made him such a valuable piece of Philadelphia’s postseason pitching puzzle. The Phillies simply needed Suárez to start a game in the traditional fashion.

Turns out he’s pretty good at that, too.

Suárez’s five scoreless innings Tuesday provided the backbone of Philadelphia’s 7-0 win over the Astros, keeping the pitching side of things settled as the Phillies were busy clubbing five home runs against his counterpart, Lance McCullers Jr. That effort made Suárez the second Phillie in history to submit a scoreless World Series start, and the first since Curt Schilling fired a shutout in Game 5 in 1993.

“He’s done everything for us and he’s done it well,” catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “It looks like he’s playing a child’s game.”

What Suárez accomplished at Citizens Bank Park may seem relatively modest in the box score, but as a pitcher — read: a creature of routine — it was more than a little noteworthy. After his most recent start in National League Championship Series Game 3, Suárez recorded the final two outs of Game 5 for a save on his bullpen day, then retired two of the three batters he faced in relief in World Series Game 1. The left-hander threw a combined 13 pitches in those outings, entering Tuesday’s play not having started a game in 11 days.

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No matter. In his return to a starting role, Suárez recorded a pair of outs on his first two pitches, thanks to fine defensive plays by Nick Castellanos and Bryson Stott — the first of which prompted Suárez to think: “If we start like this, then we’re only going to finish even better.”

Nick Castellanos’ sliding catch
Suárez went on to retire the first five batters of the game in succession, then nine straight from the second through fifth innings. When Suárez finally ran into some trouble in the top of the fifth, he induced an inning-ending popup of Jose Altuve to cap an evening he called “wonderful.”

“I don’t know if he sweated tonight,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “Just such poise on the mound, such confidence with what he does. … We’ve seen it all year. I’m really, really proud of him and excited for him that the rest of the baseball world is getting to see how talented this guy is.”

“He’s really good,” added Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, “and we didn’t square up enough baseballs.”

Ranger Suárez gets out of trouble
All told, Suárez did not allow Bregman nor any of the other top five hitters in Houston’s lineup to reach base in 11 plate appearances, despite giving up six hits to that quintet when he last faced them on Oct. 4. Suárez threw just 76 pitches in his rebound effort, joining Freddy García as the only Venezuelan-born starting pitchers to win a World Series game.

“I mean, the poise is through the roof,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “Nothing really bothers him. He just executed all night long.”

Suárez handles comebacker
It is for those reasons — Suárez’s adaptability, his efficiency, his “low heartbeat,” as both Hoskins and Realmuto put it — that the Phillies continue to feel comfortable using him in any role. It’s a trust that could soon earn him the most significant assignment of all, as Suárez is lined up to start a potential winner-take-all Game 7, if necessary.

Suárez, who went 10-7 with a 3.65 ERA during the regular season, may not typically receive the same level of praise as staff aces Aaron Nola or Zack Wheeler, but he routinely takes on tasks that other members of the Phillies do not. So it would only be fitting for Suárez to do something no Phillie has ever done in starting the seventh game of a World Series.

Ranger Suárez on start in Game 3
“No moment is too big for him,” Realmuto said. “He literally just looks like he’s going out there, having fun, like it’s any other inning in the middle of the season. Without him, there’s no telling where this team would be.”