Suárez's scoreless streak reaches 25 innings as Phils win 7th straight

April 23rd, 2024

CINCINNATI -- makes it look so easy.

He jumped to catch a soft line drive to end the fourth inning in Monday night’s 7-0 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. He smiled as he casually flipped the ball from his glove to his pitching hand as he returned to the visitors’ dugout.

“I thought it was a Michael Jordan jump,” he said.

But Suárez watched the replay afterward. He held his index finger and thumb an inch or two apart, indicating he barely got off the ground. He laughed.

Suárez might not be the best jumper, but he can sure pitch. He tossed seven scoreless innings against the Reds. He has thrown 25 consecutive scoreless innings going back to the fourth inning on April 6 in Washington. It is the longest streak by a Phillies pitcher since Cliff Lee threw 30 2/3 scoreless innings from Aug. 17–Sept. 10, 2011.

Suárez’s latest gem helped the Phillies win their seventh consecutive game to improve to 15-8. It is a mark the Phils have reached only three times in their first 23 games since 1995. Phillies starters have a 0.52 ERA during the winning streak. They have a 2.20 ERA for the season, which is the second-best mark in baseball.

“I don’t have a vocabulary really to explain it properly,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said about the rotation.

Generally, the group is locating and mixing pitches more than relying on pure stuff. Suárez might be the epitome of that. He generated 14 swings and misses on Monday, including eight on his curveball and five on his changeup.

“I’ve never had a really good fastball, so today I felt how I’ve always felt,” he said. “As always, I tried to mix all my pitches, especially my changeup and curveball. I don’t throw hard. So those are things I have to do to get outs.”

The Reds never barreled a ball against Suárez. But then, almost nobody has lately.

Suárez (4-0, 1.36 ERA) has now started 78 games in his Phillies career, including the postseason. He has held opponents to an average exit velocity of under 80 mph six times. Three of those six have come in his last three starts:

April 11 vs. Pirates: 76.4 mph (career-best)
April 16 vs. Rockies: 79.4 mph
Monday vs. Reds: 77.2 mph

Since Statcast started measuring exit velocities in 2015, only one other pitcher has made three consecutive starts with an opponents’ average exit velocity under 80 mph: former Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin from April 26 to May 17, 2022. (Eflin missed 15 days between his second and third start while on the COVID-19 IL).

Suárez threw 88 pitches against the Reds. He could have pitched longer, but following a 112-pitch shutout last week against the Rockies, the Phillies planned to limit him to 80 pitches, though he was so efficient through six innings that they let him pitch the seventh.

“I tried to get quick outs,” Suárez said. “Pitching in the zone, forcing contact to get those quick outs, I think I tried staying down in the zone. Luckily, I stayed down in the zone. It helped me get some groundouts. That helped me get that deep into the game.”

Suárez allowed a leadoff single in the first inning to Stuart Fairchild and a leadoff single to Christian Encarnacion-Strand in the fifth.

He walked Spencer Steer with one out in the fourth.

That was it.

“It's small,” Fairchild said about the window of opportunity to hit Suárez. “I mean, you've got to really narrow your focus like you would in a 2-0 count, a 3-1 count, like you're just really locking in on a zone and trying to see him up [in the zone]. And sometimes they give it to you, and tonight he didn't really do that, so that’s just how it rolls.”

That’s how it rolls for the Phillies’ defense, too.

“Every time Ranger’s out there we’re pretty locked in,” third baseman Alec Bohm said. “He’s got a good pace. He’s in the zone all the time. Guys are putting the ball in play, and they’re usually ground balls. Every time he’s got the ball we’re ready for some work for sure.”

Bohm gets to face Suárez a few times early in Spring Training. He prefers to keep it that way.

“It’s that front-hip sinker,” Bohm said. “It just locks you up. You’ve got to worry about that at all times. You see the velo isn’t what a lot of guys typically feature these days with upper-90s fastballs, but the way he mixes it up and locates and sneaks the front-hip sinker with two strikes -- it feels like 100. You’re frozen.”