For most of the first two months of the season, the rotation seemed like a Jenga puzzle, ready to topple at almost any moment. Now that seems so long ago. Taijuan Walker has turned himself around. So, less dramatically, have Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.
The piece de resistance, though, has been Suarez, who tamed the Cubs on four hits through 7 1/3 innings Tuesday night at Wrigley Field as the Phillies opened their short road trip with a 5-1 win. According to Tom McCarthy on NBC Sports Philadelphia, none of the hits had an exit velocity above 87 miles an hour.
He didn’t make his first start until May 13, working his way back after straining his elbow during spring training. After three starts, which normally would have been Grapefruit League exhibitions, his earned run average was 9.82.
In six starts since, his ERA is 1.35. In five June starts he didn’t give up more then one run in any game.
Senor Junio, perhaps?
“Dynamite. First pitch strikes. Get ahead, stay ahead. Attack the zone. He was really good and he’s been that way for a long time,” manager Rob Thomson told reporters. “It (rotation) has really been solid for awhile now and it’s good to see.”
Suarez hasn’t had a ton of run support so far this year but centerfielder centerfielder Brandon Marsh smoked a pair of homers out of the seventh spot in the order, accounting for three runs, which turned out to be more than enough against Cubs starter Jameson Taillon.
The Phillies have won 16 of their last 21 games and are back to four games over .500, matching their season high.
When the Phillies acquired Marsh from the Angels for a top prospect, catcher Logan O’Hoppe, last August he didn’t pull the ball much.
Check that. He couldn’t pull the ball much because of his mechanics at the plate.
Thomson was discussing his transformation before a recent game. “When we got him, the only way he went was the opposite way,” the manager explained. “He was leaking to his front side, so the ball was speeding up on him and he couldn’t get the head of the bat out.
“Since we got him, (hitting coach) Kevin Long has spread him out and kept his head still so he can stay behind the ball.”
Marsh pulled both his home runs off Taillon, almost carbon copy shots that knifed through the prevailing wind off Lake Michigan and into the bleachers in right-center.
“It’s cool when stuff pays off, all the work and all the stuff behind the scenes,” he told McCarthy and Ruben Amaro Jr. from the field after the game.
“I feel like (pulling the ball more) is just evolving. Just getting more reps, getting more time in the game. Just trying to be as consistent as possible.”
Said Thomson after the game: “He’s using the whole field now and that’s big for him. He’s swinging at strikes. Not chasing. He was taking a lot of strikes at one time and swinging at balls, Now he’s kind of flipped the tables.”
In his last six games Marsh is 12-for-19 (.632) with five extra base hits. Thomson was noncommittal, however, when asked if he’d start Wednesday against Cubs lefthander Drew Smyly.
With Marsh properly getting most of the attention for his two home runs, the fact that Kyle Schwarber led off the game with a double was largely overlooked. But that was significant for two reasons.
First, it ended an 0-for-17 slump; Schwarber would get on base two more times with another single and a walk. Second, he came around to score when Trea Turner followed with a single to right, giving the Phillies an early 1-0 lead.
And when the Phillies score first, they’re 33-10.
It didn’t hurt that Taillon was the starting pitcher. The Phillies jumped on him for six runs in 2 1/w innings at Citizens Bank Park in May and scored five in five innings against him Tuesday night.
It was the Cubs who had logged nearly 8,000 air miles in the previous five days with a quick over-and-back trip to participate in the annual London Series, but it was the Phillies who seemed jet-lagged in the early innings.
Maybe they were just anticipating how they’ll fee; next season when they cross the pond to play the Mets in England.
Trea Turner was thrown out trying to stretch a single in the top of the first. It was the 28th time the Phillies have had a runner thrown out on the bases this season, trailing only Ohio (Reds, Guardians) in that category. Turner booted a routine grounder in the bottom of the inning and catcher Garrett Stubbs, giving J.T. Realmuto a night off, was charged with a throwing error in the third.
Adding to the sense of disorientation was the fog came into Wrigley Field on little cat’s feet. Well, actually the haze from the Canadian wild fires that forced postponed of a Tigers-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park three weeks. The air quality was once again the danger zone but the decision was made to play anyway.
“You just have to trust that it’s safe out there,” Thomson told reporters with a shrug. “I could smell it the whole game but as long as it’s safe you have to play. I didn’t hear anybody complain. I didn’t think anybody was affected by it.”
RHP Aaron Nola (6-5, 4.38) will face Smyly (7-4, 3.38) Wednesday and RHP Taijuan Walker (8-3, 4.10) will oppose RHP Kyle Hendrick (3-2, 2.60) Thursday in the final two games of the series. Both games are scheduled to start at 8:05 EDT.
Source: Yahoo Sports