Suarez showing signs of fatigue as All-Star break approaches

Suarez showing signs of fatigue as All-Star break approaches originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

ATLANTA — He’s thrown nearly twice as many innings as he had through this date a year ago. Is Ranger Suarez feeling some fatigue?

After winning 13 of Suarez’ first 14 starts through mid-June, the Phillies have lost three of his last four, falling 5-1 to the Braves on Saturday night to even the weekend series at a game apiece.

“I think there’s probably a little bit of fatigue and I think there is with all our guys,” manager Rob Thomson said. “But I don’t think it’s a concern. None of the numbers that we measure are really jumping out at us.”

Suarez was coming off of his worst start of the season — six runs on 10 hits over 4⅔ innings against the lowly Marlins with no strikeouts for the first time in his career — and the Braves jumped on him early Saturday. Jarred Kelenic doubled down the right-field line, scored on an Ozzie Albies single and Atlanta led the rest of the way, with Marcell Ozuna hitting a two-run homer after called strikeouts of Austin Riley and Matt Olson.

Suarez retired seven in a row after the Ozuna homer, then escaped a jam in the fourth inning with two runners in scoring position and nobody out by striking out Sean Murphy and Adam Duvall to set up an inning-ending popup.

But Albies did more damage in the fifth, drilling a two-run homer to left after a Kelenic single. The Braves’ second baseman is 5-for-8 in the series with two homers, four RBI and five runs scored.

Suarez has one more start before the break — Friday at home against the Athletics — and will almost certainly be part of the All-Star Game after his fantastic first half. But it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s dealing with a bit of a tired arm.

“No, I don’t think it’s that,” he said. “Three or four bad pitches today and they hit them and scored the runs. I feel healthy. I think that’s important right now.”

He is at 108 innings pitched on the season. At this point a year ago, he was at 56⅓. The most Suarez has ever thrown through this date is 79. And keep in mind that he also had the first full spring training workload of his career this year.

Suarez (10-3) allowed five runs over five innings. His ERA has risen in his last two starts from 1.83 to 2.58.

“When you have bad outings, it’s normal to worry about your performance and that’s what’s happened today,” Suarez said when asked about showing some frustration on the mound. “When the team gets behind by so many runs, it feels like you’re knocked down and it’s hard to get back up. I’m not giving them the chance to fight by keeping the game close. That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

“I’ve had three bad outings in a row and I started to worry a little bit about it. It’s just pitch location, that’s what I mean when I say I worry about the next performance. I’ll just try to focus and work on my pitch location for the next one.”

Trea Turner drove in the Phillies’ lone run with an RBI single in the top of the third against rookie Spencer Schwellenbach after flying out to the wall in right-center in the first inning. The All-Star shortstop is 12-for-27 (.444) over the last six games with four homers, 11 RBI and 11 runs scored.

The Phillies were held without an extra-base hit for the fifth time this season and first since May 26 in Colorado. They’re 58-31 with a nine-game lead over the Braves entering Sunday’s 1:20 p.m. series finale.

Rookie Michael Mercado will make his second career start, while the Braves turn to right-hander Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez has a 1.83 ERA which would lead all of baseball if he met the innings requirement of one per team game but he’s three short.

Sunday should be the Phils’ last game without Kyle Schwarber (groin strain), who is on track to rejoin the team on Tuesday when first eligible to be activated from the injured list.

The Phillies will find out after their series finale how many of their players made the National League All-Star team as pitchers and reserves. Suarez, despite the recent woes, should still make the team.

“After these couple of outings, I don’t think so,” he joked, “but whatever it is that happens, I’ll take it. My main focus for this year is to stay healthy the whole season. I’ve been doing it, and I just want to stay healthy all year. We have our goals set.”

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