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May 26, 2024

Five thoughts: Phillies drop first series since March to lowly Rockies

The Phillies bats didn't do much in the Mile High city this weekend.

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Phillies-Rockies-J.T.-Realmuto-Ranger-Suarez_052624 Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suarez talks with catcher J.T. Realmuto Sunday in Colorado.

The Phillies bats cooled off in the thin Colorado air this weekend, as they dropped just their second series of the entire season to the Rockies. A few big mistakes — on the field and on the mound — cost the team in their two losses in the three-game set, but it was their lack of offense that ultimately decided this one.

After leading the majors in runs during the best ever 51-game start to a season, 37-14, they mustered only two runs Friday and two runs Sunday. And that was really that as they dropped those games this weekend.

Before they head further west to play the Giants for a trio of games starting Monday at 5 p.m., here's a look at five thoughts to be mindful of as the Phillies leave Denver:

1. Suarez is human after all... but still awesome

Ranger Suarez has been superhuman this season and had the chance to get to 10-0 against the worst team in the National League. So of course he had his worst start of the season, walking four and struggling through the first two of his six innings. 

He was still solid, however, tossing four perfect frames after relenting five runs in his first two. He struck out nine Rockies hitters too, flashing the nearly unhittable stuff he's used to feast on hitters this year. Suarez bent but didn't break which is admirable. There will be starts like this all season long. No one pitches seven shutout innings every five days. 

Personally I am quite interested to see how he'll perform the next time out — likely back at home against the Cardinals next weekend. Will he be wobbly and have control issues like he did against the Rockies? Or will he show that this outing was a simple fluke. A true ace — a guy like Zack Wheeler — can forget a bad start. That's one of the characteristics the Phillies hope to see from Suarez this summer.

2. Stay the course

It's interesting to me that when the Phillies struggle, it's the offense that is stuck in neutral, not the starting pitching. They never take a night off. On Friday, Cris Sanchez grinded through 5.1 innings and allowed a lone run. On Saturday, it was Aaron Nola who battled through six innings with two earn runs (and one unearned) blemishing his line. Each hurler kept the Phillies in their respective games and each actually lowered their ERA in the no decisions.

And even Sunday, with Suarez showing struggles for the first time, the starter was able to keep his pitch count low in his last few innings to give the bullpen some rest. But the run support wasn't there — proving that getting reliable and consistent offense is much more variable.

Phillies hitters only struck out three times in the middle game of the series, an unusual occurrence in this day and age. And yet through the first seven innings Saturday night their scattering of six hits produced two runs. There is always an element of luck in baseball and Philly's offense has had a lot of it so far. 

3. Open the floodgates

There was an eerie, familiar — yet unfamiliar feeling in the early part of the Phillies series in Denver, with the offense mustering just four total runs through 19 straight innings (including an 11-inning extra innings loss in the opener). Bryce Harper was controversially ejected in Game 1, and things just felt off. 

But then in the eighth inning Saturday, Edmundo Sosa hit a triple, scoring Brandon Marsh from first and the floodgates opened in a six-run frame that kept the Phillies from potentially losing back-to-back games for the first time in a month's time.

There will be stretches where this team falls asleep. It's inevitable. The season is really long. But having them remind everyone why they're the best team in baseball in a comeback win a mile high is also something that fans can expect. 

4. A Turner setback

On the road in Colorado, the Phillies had Trea Turner with them and were hopeful the star shortstop would be close to making a return to the field from a hamstring injury. But a setback might be pushing back that date.

After running the bases Sunday he felt stiffness and soreness in the leg for the first time. The Phillies will understandably err on the side of caution with their $300 million man — thanks in large part to the extremely solid play the team has exhibited in Turner's absence. 

Backup infielder Edmundo Sosa is hitting .324 this season and has been a very solid bat at the bottom of the lineup over the last few weeks.

5. An unexpected test?

Much has been written about the Phillies easy schedule, and how they haven't technically played a team above .500 since the season started in March with the Braves in town. It's possible an unexpected challenge awaits in San Francisco, as the Giants are suddenly red hot, fresh off winning eight of their last ten games. They are exactly at the .500 mark.

The Phillies dominated San Francisco in four games in Philly earlier this season but since then they have started to figure it out and are right in the middle of the NL Wild Card race. 

This could be a welcomed test. Next week the will host the first place Brewers before playing the Mets in London. They'll return home to face the contending Red Sox and first place Orioles in mid June. The Padres and Diamondbacks are also not far ahead on the ledger. We'll learn a lot more about this baseball team over the next few weeks.

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