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June 19, 2024

Phillies quick hits: Return home is a success with series win over Padres

The Phillies returned to Citizens Bank Park following an eight-game road trip and immediately got back in a groove against the San Diego Padres.

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Harper Turner Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies' series win over the Padres featured three Kyle Schwarber home runs and the return of Trea Turner.

After 13 long days on the road, the Phillies returned to Citizens Bank Park on Monday to play a six-game homestand, beginning with a three-game set against the San Diego Padres. After a disappointing 3-5 road trip, the Phillies rebounded with a blowout victory in the series opener before putting together a thrilling come-from-behind win and ultimately dropping the final game of the series. Here is what jumped out from their series win:

Cristopher Sánchez gets back on track with seven strong innings

I wrote about Sánchez's outstanding season to date before his start in Boston last week; naturally, that day he turned in his worst start in a while. He was on the bump for the Phillies on Monday against a San Diego lineup that has struggled against left-handed pitching all season, and looked fantastic.

Sánchez's line Monday night: seven innings pitched, six hits, two runs, one earned run, one walk, five strikeouts.

Sánchez, whose season-long ERA is now at 2.91, has made a good living forcing ground balls and limiting hard-hit fly balls. He has now faced 325 batters in 2024, and the Phillies' lanky southpaw has only allowed one home run. He has induced ground balls at a higher rate than any starting pitcher in baseball this season.

Sánchez's initial breakout happened thanks in large part to the development of his changeup -- which has quickly become one of the best in all of baseball -- and reduced velocity that led to much better command. But the Phillies gambled this year that he could dial up his velocity again while maintaining his improve precision, and their bet has paid off. Sánchez looks like the best fourth starter in baseball right now.

Kyle Schwarber, Rafael Marchán lead offensive masterclass behind Sánchez

After slowing down for most of the road trip, the Phillies' lineup got right back to its peak form in their return home, swatting 18 hits on Monday. 

The Padres sent struggling starter Randy Vásquez to the mound, and the Phillies punished him: San Diego's right-hander allowed a dozen hits in 4.1 innings.

Nearly every member of the Phillies' lineup contributed to this offensive outburst, but there were two stars -- one the average fan would expect given the calendar, and one who is not exactly counted on for consistent production at the plate.

It took a handful of days, but June Schwarber has arrived. The Phillies' leadoff hitter crushed two home runs Monday -- his second multi-homer game in less than a week -- and all of a sudden is near the top of the homer leaderboard in the National League. Schwarber's power had been lacking this season -- relatively speaking -- despite an uptick in on-base skills. If he can maintain his improved contact while continuing to unleash the power he has long been known for, 2024 will become his most well-rounded season at the plate since he joined the Phillies.

Marchán -- called up last week following J.T. Realmuto's knee surgery -- continued to make the most of his opportunities. The young backstop collected the first four-hit game of his major-league career.

According to Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Phillies manager Rob Thomson indicated Tuesday afternoon that the plan is for Marchán to catch starts made by Sánchez and Ranger Suárez, while Garrett Stubbs will be behind home plate when Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola or Taijuan Walker is on the mound.

Trea Turner makes return

The Phillies activated Turner from the Injured List on Monday, ending a six-week absence for the team's star shortstop. Turner had been on fire before his injury, slashing .397/.427/.564 in his last 18 games before being placed on the shelf with a hamstring strain. 

Turner slashed .343/.392/.460 on the season prior to his injury, teaming with Schwarber to set the table beautifully for run producers like Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm. While Turner has not always been as aggressive on the bases as many expected since signing in Philadelphia, the threats presented to opposing pitchers, catchers and fielders by his speed are palpable.

Turner expressed confidence that his swing was in a good place entering his return to play -- despite declining to go on a minor-league rehab assignment -- and backed it up Monday with two hits. For what it's worth, throughout the first two games of the series it did not appear as if Turner was running at anything resembling his typical top speed -- and he received a scheduled day off on Wednesday. None of these are shocking developments, but it's worth keeping an eye on how Turner looks as the team ramps up his workload in the near future.

Phillies mount impressive comeback against one of baseball's best

After Schwarber obliterated another baseball, the Phillies trailed San Diego 3-2 in the eighth inning Tuesday night after starting pitcher Aaron Nola surrendered three runs in the top of the sixth. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, San Diego brought closer Robert Suarez into the game for a four-out save opportunity. 

If that name sounds familiar, there is a good reason: Suarez is the pitcher who famously allowed Harper's signature home run in Game 5 of the 2022 NLCS that sent the Phillies to the World Series.

Suarez -- who has been unhittable for much of 2024 -- was able to retire Trea Turner to end the eighth inning, but things unraveled quickly for him in the ninth. Harper led off the inning with a single in his first plate appearance against Suarez since that rainy October afternoon in 2022. Bohm followed it up with a single of his own that moved Harper to third, Bryson Stott singled in Harper to tie the game, and Nick Castellanos delivered his third walk-off hit of the season -- and his fourth hit of the game -- with a bloop-shot down the right field line.

Just like that, a Phillies offense that looked lifeless for the better part of seven innings erupted -- just in time to win a ballgame.

Phillies fail to complete sweep in loss Wednesday despite multi-homer game for Bryce Harper

Ranger Suárez threw six innings of one-run ball for the Phillies in the series finale, but after Orion Kerkering, Seranthony Domínguez and Gregory Soto had some trouble in the following two innings -- without much help from the defense behind them -- the Phillies' offense did not have enough to make up what became a four-run deficit.

The Phillies only scored two runs, and those came on solo homers from Harper -- one of which came against San Diego's starting pitcher, right-handed knuckleballer Matt Waldron, and the other came against a powerful reliever in Jeremiah Estrada.

This was Harper's second multi-homer game of the season -- he hit three home runs in a game back in April -- and it marked the third time a Phillies hitter had collected multiple homers in a game in just the last eight days.

The dagger was placed in the Phillies' hearts in the top of the eighth inning. An error by Bohm gave the Padres an extra chance to break the game open, Soto came into the game with one out and the bases loaded. He got Padres rookie center fielder Jackson Merrill -- who homered off Suárez in his first at-bat -- to pop out to shortstop Edmundo Sosa. San Diego catcher Kyle Higashioka -- very much a defensive-oriented player -- came up next, and hit a sinking line drive towards center field. Brandon Marsh charged as hard as he could and dove for the ball, but it got by him and rolled into center field. Higashioka ended up at third base with a three-run triple. It is hard not to wonder if Johan Rojas would have made the play had he been in center field.

The Phillies have a day off on Thursday before beginning a three-game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks -- their first time seeing the 2024 version of the team that eliminated them in Game 7 of the NLCS last season.

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