Cool and collected, Suárez goes the distance to dominate Rox

April 17th, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- heard the ovation from the crowd. He heard Kid Cudi's "Mr. Rager" play for a second time.

He shook with excitement.

Suárez walked to the mound in the ninth inning in Tuesday night's 5-0 victory over the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park with an opportunity to throw the second shutout of his career. He liked his chances. He'd thrown only 89 pitches to that point.

Suárez had thrown each of his five pitches for strikes. He got the Rockies to chase when he wanted them to chase, and he got them to freeze when he wanted them to freeze.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson checked with Suárez before the ninth.

"Are you OK?" he said.

"I am," Suárez said.

"Then he asked me to finish the game, and that I did," Suárez said.

Suárez pitched the second shutout in baseball this season (after Ronel Blanco's no-hitter on April 2) and the Phillies' first shutout since Michael Lorenzen's no-hitter against the Nationals on Aug. 9, 2023. He joined Cole Hamels (four) and Cliff Lee (four) as the only Phillies left-handers to throw multiple shutouts at the Bank.

"I think he's the best three in the game," Bryce Harper said.

Suárez might not be a No. 3 for long. He has a 3.10 ERA in 94 appearances (67 starts) since the beginning of 2021. Everybody in Philly already knows him as a big-game pitcher, regardless of his role.

The last time he heard "Mr. Rager," his warm-up song, in the ninth, was when he was closing Game 5 of the 2022 NLCS to send the Phillies to the World Series.

But maybe this year, people outside Philly will appreciate Suárez more.

They certainly are seeing more of him early. Slow starts have hurt him in recent years. He had visa issues in 2021 and 2022. He suffered an injury at the World Baseball Classic in 2023. But this spring he came to camp on time and healthy.

"He was there," J.T. Realmuto said. "That was the difference. I think that makes a huge difference in how he starts the season. He's had his visa issues multiple years in a row, and coming in healthy and being ready to pitch from day one makes a huge difference. Because he got all of his starts. He got all of his work in. I feel like that's the best version of Ranger we've seen. And I think it's because he was more ready to start the season than usual."

Suárez allowed seven hits and one walk on Tuesday. He struck out eight. He got a career-high 18 swings and misses, which surpassed his previous high of 15 (five times). He got a whiff with each of his pitches: curveball (seven), changeup (five), four-seam fastball (four), sinker (one) and cutter (one). He fielded his position as coolly and smoothly as always.

It was fitting the game ended with a ball hit back to him.

Suárez has not allowed a run in 18 consecutive innings. He is 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA, the lowest ERA by a Phillies lefty through four starts to start a season since Steve Carlton's 1.69 ERA in 1983.

Carlton, Lee, Hamels, Suárez. It would mean so much if Suárez matched Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation in effectiveness and durability. Suarez has never pitched more than 155 1/3 innings in a season. He has never made more than 29 starts.

"I wouldn't label him as a No. 3 anymore if he takes that leap," Realmuto said. "He's so good that he'd become 1A, 1B, 1C for me. Like, he's that good. He's got that type of talent. So, hopefully, he can take that jump. It's not easy to stay healthy for 200 innings, but Ranger's got it in him for sure."

Suárez threw 23 pitches to finish the job in the ninth. He threw 112 pitches overall.

"He has no heartbeat," Harper said.

Asked if he has played with pitchers like that before, Harper said, "I mean, Wheels, Nola, [Stephen] Strasburg, [Max] Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann. I can go on. I've played with a lot of good guys. I've been around a lot of good pitchers. … I just don't think they make them like that anymore. Getting into the seventh inning and grinding through, getting into the eighth inning. When you have guys who are valuable like that, you're going to get paid. They throw 200 innings, they're going to get a lot of money. I think Ranger's going to be one of those guys and we're very fortunate to have him on our side."