Hugs abound as Phils win 1st set in Miami since '19

Gregorius notches 1st HR of 2022; 3 Phillies pitchers strong in return from IL

July 17th, 2022

MIAMI -- A decision had to be made by the Phillies’ dugout in the top of the eighth inning: hide in the tunnel and pretend to ignore Didi Gregorius? Or shower him with hugs and high fives? 

They chose the latter, and Darick Hall gave Gregorius -- who had just hit his first homer of the season -- a hug so big he appeared to lift the 6-foot-3 shortstop off his feet. 

Gregorius’ homer was one of four the Phillies hit in their series-clinching 10-0 win over the Marlins at loanDepot park on Saturday afternoon, ensuring they were headed into the All-Star break with at least a series win.

“It was exciting,” J.T. Realmuto said of Gregorius’ homer. “We couldn't decide whether we wanted to go down in the tunnel and ghost him, since it was the first homer, but we decided the best thing to do was show him some love, because we're all so happy for him. It was a lot of fun in there.”

The rout of their divisional rivals was a suitable way to close out the first half for the Phils, who won their first series in Miami since April 12-14, 2019. Even more impressive was that Philly turned around a trend in the penultimate game of its road trip. The club entered Saturday having been outscored 23-14 in the first seven games of its three-series road trip. Entering the final game of the first half on Sunday, the Phillies can say they’ve outscored their opponents 24-23 on this trip.

Four of those runs on Saturday came courtesy of Gregorius, who also had his first four-RBI game this season. Interim manager Rob Thomson took note and highlighted Gregorius’ first hit of the night, a two-run single in the sixth inning that provided the Phillies’ bullpen with insurance runs.

“He got that big base hit against the left-hander [Richard Bleier] after they walked [Alec] Bohm to get to [Didi],” Thomson said, “and that kind of gave us some separation there. And then finally [he] hits his home run, which we've been waiting on.”

Entering Saturday, the Phillies hadn’t scored more than three runs in a game in over a week -- the last time they did so was in their 5-3 win over the last-place Nationals on July 7 in Philly. To have every member of the starting lineup get a hit and for four of those starters -- Kyle Schwarber, Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Gregorius -- to have home runs bolstered the injury-riddled club’s confidence.

Even when bruised -- or dislocated à la Bohm, who went 1-for-4 with a walk in his first start since he dislocated his finger on Monday -- the Phillies can still rake. And they can still pitch, as was evident by the three pitchers who returned from various IL stints to contribute to Philadelphia’s shutout win.

Prior to Saturday, the Phillies only had three healthy starters: Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson and Zack Wheeler. Gibson pitched in Friday’s 2-1 win in Miami, and Nola is on tap for the series finale on Sunday. So, the starting spot on Saturday fell to Ranger Suárez, who was activated from the 15-day IL (lower back spasms) to make his fourth career start vs. the Marlins.

Suárez was lights out, allowing just four hits over five scoreless innings while issuing no walks and striking out four batters. Two of those K’s came via his curveball, which is one of his least-used pitches -- he had only notched five strikeouts this season on the curve prior to Saturday. His performance was especially impressive considering he never went on a rehab assignment, and had been seemingly “out of commission” since his previous start on June 29.

“All our guys today were good,” Thomson said. “Ranger was maybe a little rusty the first inning, but then he just cruised after that. … It’s huge.”

There’s still one starter out: Zach Eflin, who has been on the 15-day IL with a right knee bruise since the end of June. But the Phillies received encouraging news on Saturday about the right-hander, who threw 59 pitches pregame that included a bullpen session, eight warmup pitches and an extended inning of a simulated game. Thomson was impressed with Eflin’s stuff, which was registering at 92-93 mph and had good movement.

Also encouraging were a pair of scoreless relief innings from right-hander Connor Brogdon (recently activated from the COVID-19 IL) and southpaw JoJo Romero, each of whom faced the minimum number of batters. Romero had been out of action since the beginning of last season, when he underwent Tommy John surgery in May.

“Our bullpen’s been throwing well,” Thomson said. “And now you add Brogdon back, and JoJo’s [throwing] 95-96 [mph], good slider against lefties, the bullpen just gets longer. You have more weapons down there to go to. So, it is encouraging.”