Phillies Mailbag: Suárez, Lineup, Bullpen in Game 7
We are back with yet another 97.3 ESPN Phillies National League Championship Series Mailbag. We are on to Game 7 at home in South Philadelphia. These are the questions you had this week.
How many innings does Ranger Suárez go tonight?
The Phillies hand the ball to starting pitcher Ranger Suárez to head to Game 7. I think that like Game 4, Suárez will give the Phillies a good game. I think we can put Suárez down for six innings.
What I like most about Ranger Suárez is his demeanor. I remember the first game where he started to become one of the top relief pitchers of 2021. He entered a game in Miami, inheriting a mess from Spencer Howard: a bases-loaded, one-out situation. The game would have gotten out of hand.
Cool and collected, Suárez went to work, just thinking to himself, "What do I need to do right now to get us out of this situation".
I see Suárez doing this tonight. Rather than panicking, or feeling like he has to over-deliver, he will go about his business. And when he does that, I can see him getting through the lineup two full times, and into the third time to get the team past Ketel Marte and Corbin Carroll.
After that, I think his job is done.
Any chance he changes the lineup tomorrow? Not even sure who would move around at this point with so many guys going cold.
The next verse, same as the first. Phillies manager Rob Thomson is going to keep the lineup exactly the same for Game 7. This is the lineup that made the difference in the first two series, and for half of the games in this series. No point in changing it now.
It would be one thing if there were lineup adjustments along the way. Waiting until Game 7 to change the lineup? That gives the impression of panic. Cool, collected Thomson will show he is confident in the lineup they have.
But the Phillies need to hit.
Part of the issue is that Diamondbacks pitching is clearly pitching around Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper. If the others around them are hitting, those free bases to Schwarber and Harper will make all the difference.
The Phillies need Trea Turner and Alec Bohm to hit behind them. The Phillies need Nick Castellanos to snap an 0 for 19.
Brandon Pfaat was the underdog the last time the Phillies faced them. He responded with 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Could the same pitcher who went 3-9 with a 5.72 ERA during the regular season revert to form?
How will Pfaadt respond to the pressure of needing to win Game 7 and not a Game 3 he was expected to lose? How will the Phillies lineup respond to Pfaadt?
That's going to make the difference at this point.
Who do you think the Phillies will pitch in the bullpen tonight?
Well, I think the Phillies will go to their biggest bullets in the bullpen tonight. After Ranger Suárez gives them the bulk of the innings (in or around six), they'll have to just pitch three innings. I think the Phillies will utilize a couple of their usual suspects...and one other.
I think that Jeff Hoffman will continue to be used in a "put out fires" role that he has been pitching in lately. When he enters with runners on base, he tends to get the ground ball he needs to diffuse a threat. The Phillies could use him to do that if when Suárez hands over the ball there is a baserunner.
Jose Alvarado has had the last two nights off and he will be ready to fire his heat. Expect him when the bullpen needs to tend to Marte and Carroll. He can get some right-handed bats out, too, if necessary.
Matt Strahm would be another option I think that they would trust if they need an extra inning.
The big difference: I can see the Phillies turning to Zack Wheeler for an inning or into a second against the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup. The uncertainty surrounding Seranthony Dominguez, Orion Kerkering, and Craig Kimbrel may lead the Phillies to turn to Wheeler, maybe even for the last out or two like Suárez did in 2022 to close out the NLCS.
If the Phillies happen to be up five or six runs, I can see Kimbrel getting the last few outs. But I do not think he will be in a high leverage situation like before.