Turnbull dominates, Rojas breaks out to set up dramatic win

April 9th, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- The Phillies signed on Valentine’s Day because they believed he is an effective pitcher when healthy, and he could be a solid insurance policy if something happened to one of their starters.

They placed on the Opening Day roster because they believed he could hit enough to keep his glove in center field.

Both helped the Phillies return to .500 in Monday night’s 5-3 victory over the Cardinals in 10 innings at Busch Stadium. Turnbull pitched six scoreless innings, while Rojas had three hits and one RBI. The Phillies blew a two-run lead in the ninth, but they scored twice against Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley in the 10th to win it.

“I was happy with the fight,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said.

Turnbull has not allowed an earned run in 11 innings in two starts with the Phillies. It is the longest streak by a starter to begin a Phillies career since Vince Velasquez pitched 15 innings without allowing an earned run in 2016.

“I’m very happy, I’m very pleased with it,” Turnbull said. “It’s a very satisfying feeling. Hopefully we can just keep it rolling.”

Turnbull suffered through a few injury-plagued seasons with the Tigers, limiting him to only 16 starts from 2021-23.

He came to Philly to prove himself again.

“At the start of Spring Training we really weren’t sure what he was going to do,” Thomson said. “Was he going to be a long man in our bullpen? Was he going to be a starter in Triple-A to give us depth?”

Turnbull missed time early in camp because of the flu, putting him behind the eight ball as he competed at the time for one of two bullpen jobs. But then Taijuan Walker’s right shoulder started bothering him in late March. Walker would open the season on the injured list, clearing a path for Turnbull to be the fifth starter.

Turnbull allowed only two hits and one walk on Monday. He struck out six, including Paul Goldschmidt swinging on a 2-2 sweeper in the first and Nolan Gorman swinging on a 3-2 changeup in the third. He got 12 swings and misses overall, including six on his sweeper. It is a pitch he dabbled with last season on a rehab assignment.

“It gives me an extra weapon,” Turnbull said. “I think it’s my favorite weapon so far. It’s just something that quickly I’m able to trust and rely on when I’m in a hole, when I need a swing and miss or if I need to attack with something behind in the count. It’s helpful.”

Turnbull’s first inning ended when Rojas made a nice diving catch in right-center field. Rojas entered the series batting .045 with no RBIs and a .205 OPS. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, he would have ranked last in baseball in batting average by 29 points and OPS by 44 points.

Rojas ripped a leadoff double into the left-field corner in the third. It was only his second hit of the season, and his first hit to leave the infield. It was an aggressive swing. The ball left his bat at 108.1 mph, making it his hardest-hit ball for a base hit in his MLB career.

“I think that I was a little shy at the plate before, right now what I can do is be myself,” Rojas said through the team’s interpreter.

It was a relief for Rojas, who performed the team’s new on-base celebration at second base, which is an homage to Twitch star Sketch.

The Phillies had runners at the corners in the fifth when Rojas stepped to the plate. Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt both moved in, positioning themselves for a potential bunt. Rojas’ threat to bunt allowed him to sneak a slow-rolling ground ball past Goldschmidt into right field for a hit. It scored Brandon Marsh to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

“That does feel nice,” Rojas said, answering in English. “They’re coming in? All right. I’ve got my base hit. If they’re back, I try to bunt. Yeah, that feels good. That’s part of the game, you know?”