Monday, June 3, 2024

Phillies v. Cardinals 6/1/24: Turnbull in a China Shop


Sometimes you buy something at a supermarket, open it up and realize it's completely different than what you thought you bought. And it's still good, and it does the trick, but the whole time you're still going 'well I wanted this.' That is how I'd describe Saturday night's Phils game. Not that it was bad--in fact, it was actually a really nice game. But it was not at all what I expected to see.

For a couple weeks, I was excited for the pitching matchup we were gonna see. The Cardinals were putting up Sonny Gray, who's in the midst of another great season, and the Phillies would be starting Ranger Suarez, in the midst of one of the single best pitching performances of 2024. Being at CBP for a Ranger start would be really cool, and I was excited to be a part of it. 

Yet in the back of my mind, I'm always skeptical that something like this could end up not happening. I go back to attending a Nats-O's game in 2016, and being prepared to see Stephen Strasburg start against Dylan Bundy, only for the news to come in as we're in the damned stadium that Strasburg was hurt, and they were starting A.J. Cole. And while, again, it didn't ruin the game, it just felt disappointing. So I was aware that something like this could always happen, but I hoped it wouldn't.

Still, a Phils-Cardinals matchup in the midst of a hot streak for Philly would definitely be a great game. I've been vocal about not being a Cardinals fan, they always find a way to infuriate me, and while I've lessened that over the years, they've been recently doing the thing where they start awful and then decide midway through that they're a good team. I hate when they do that. Just pick a direction and stick with it.

These were our seats. Third base line, all the way back. Under cover, we got enough of a breeze. On a beautiful night like this it was just what we needed. This game was making a ton of noise about the Phils' forthcoming London Series, as the giveaway was a little toy double-decker bus for the under-14ers. 

Okay, so...Ranger Suarez. What did I think of him? Well...the guy clearly is unstoppable this year. Through the first 6 batters of the game, there were whiffs, easily tracked balls and zero Cardinal progress. I've seen him pitch before, and his control was always there, but he's just on another level this year. 

On the inverse, Sonny Gray was slightly less dominant. He let some balls get away, and soon enough Alec Bohm and Nick Castellanos were cracking doubles and sending runners home. By the end of the first it was 3-0. I had figured it would be like 6 innings til we'd get to the Cardinals pitching, but it happened immediately, and off one of the best pitchers in the game.

Then, the mood shifted. In the second inning, Alec Burleson knocked a liner right at Ranger Suarez, and it hit him directly on his pitching hand. He made the out, and ended the inning, but exited for the dugout whilst screaming into his glove, clearly in pain. 

In that moment, I saw the rest of the season flash before my eyes. If we didn't have Ranger, we'd make it work, we had enough pitching, but he was our best player. And without him, it would level things significantly. 

The good news was that the x-rays came back negative, it missed bone, and barring some rehab, Suarez will probably only need to miss a start or so, without needing the IL. The bad news was this game I'd gone to with the expectation of seeing Ranger Suarez pitch was now getting another pitcher by inning three. 

As you might expect, the combined no-hitter got broken up not too soon after Jose Ruiz hit the mound. He gave up 2 hits and then a sac-fly to Masyn Wynn in order to get a runner home and make it a 3-1 game. A Brandon Marsh RBI single would make it 4-1 shortly thereafter, but with this level of pitching after the exit of Suarez, I was worried.

There was, however, a silver lining. See, since Taijuan Walker's been back, the Phillies have had the best long-man in the majors, solely because they never should have taken him out of the rotation in the first place.

So we got three innings of Spencer Turnbull. And oh my, were they exactly what we needed or what.

Turnbull was having a phenomenal year after making the rotation out of camp. He's one of those guys who's great when he's healthy but gets hurt a lot, the Tigers found this out. So we're just relieved he's stayed healthy, and, yeah, he's a great pitcher. Because he was lowest on the depth chart, he went down when Walker came back, and...that's been seen as an unpopular decision, as Walker's our spottiest starter and Turnbull's been excellent in relief. 

The good news was that Turnbull could pitch in this game, and he could go for as long as we needed him to. And so that's how we got six strikeouts and no runs from Spencer Turnbull in 3 innings. 

It's a two-part thing. One part of that is Turnbull being really on, really steady, and barely giving them anything to get behind. The other part is the Cardinals' lineup doesn't have much going on right now. Arenado and Goldschmidt are past their primes, Gorman and Burleson aren't much, Wynn's great but he's just a speedy contact guy. So Turnbull really had no trouble with this lineup.

One other piece is that the Phils were excellent defensively in this game. Alec Bohm was making great plays at third all night. Johan Rojas was responsible for MULTIPLE awesome catches in center. Even with Edmundo Sosa this is a pretty sturdy, very impressive defensive team, and everybody did well. 

So we were rolling. And the funny thing was barring the 4 runs, Sonny Gray had a pretty strong night himself. He struck out 10 batters that night, which is a nice stat for a losing pitcher. Even if you get the better of him he doesn't let you out easy. So we kinda waited for him to leave in order to widen the gap. And wouldn't you know it, John King takes the mound, we get a man on, Bryce Harper gets up, and he absolutely annihilates a ball to the second deck in right field. I've seen Bryce bombs before, but this one was incredible. The whole place went wild as well. These things don't lose their novelty. 

So with a 6-1 lead, and the bullpen making it kind of a runaway, we packed it up and beat the traffic to get home. And look, regardless of the Ranger moment, we still got a Phils game with a Bryce Harper home run, some great plays, and it was a win. And I'm still pretty happy with that.

I'll be back at CBP in July. If you can believe it, an even more beatable opponent than St. Louis.

1 comment: