The Philadelphia Phillies head into Game 3 of the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks with one huge advantage. The way Ranger Suárez has been pitching in these playoffs, the Phillies and their fans can have complete confidence in their third starter to give them a solid outing.
The same can't be said on the other side of the field. The Diamondbacks will send out rookie Brandon Pfaadt to face the high-powered Phillies offense.
The youngster, who turned 25 mere days ago, split time between Triple-A and the majors this year and had a rough welcome in his first foray into the big leagues. He went 3-9 in 19 games (18 starts) and finished with a 5.72 ERA. While he struck out 94 batters in 96 innings, he also gave up 22 home runs, including four in his debut against the Texas Rangers.
Pfaadt began to right the ship near the end of the season with some strong outings. But the issue was in the outings in which he got roughed up, he really got roughed up.
The right-hander has had mixed results through two starts in the postseason. The Brewers tagged him for three runs on seven hits through 2 2/3 innings in the Wild Card. He followed that up with a strong showing against the Dodgers in the NLDS, going 4 1/3 shutout innings, giving up only two hits.
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo, for one, isn't worried about his young starter going into such an important game.
"I just know there's going to be good and bad moments for young pitchers," Lovullo said. "But it's the presence on the mound, it's the ability to slow things down and make pitches that stands out to me more than anything."
Although, even if Lovullo was concerned, he certainly wouldn't tell us. Plus, the Diamondbacks really have no other option at this point, with a serious lack of starting pitching depth after Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.
Suárez gives the Phillies a third ace for Game 3
Overshadowed by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, Suárez has quietly gone about his business this postseason and has been fantastic.
In two NLDS starts, the lefty shut down the Braves for 8 2/3 innings. He allowed only four hits and a single run, a solo home run, while striking out six against this season's best offense.
He'll carry a 1.04 ERA and 0.58 WHIP into his third start of the playoffs against a Diamondbacks team against which he had mixed results this season.
Suárez faced the Diamondbacks twice this season, soon after coming off the IL in May. The first outing, his third start of the season, didn't go so well. He gave up five runs on five hits through five innings while striking out five.
He faced them again during a good stretch in June, going seven shutout innings, giving up only four hits and striking out seven.
Phillies skipper Rob Thomson praised his starter's improvement as the season progressed, and into the playoffs.
"Once we got towards the end of the season, he had it going on, and he's continued that through the postseason," Thomson said. "I always expect him to give us a good start, expect him to give us length."
And it sounds like the manager is willing to let Suarez go deep in Game 3, saying, "We got three in a row here, so hopefully you can give us some length..."
Speaking to the media, Suárez acknowledged his slow start to the year but also made everyone aware that he wants to go deeper into these meaningful games.
"I didn't have a good start of the year, you know, I was injured," Suárez said. "But I am the type of pitcher that the more I pitch, the better rhythm I get. So actually, the workload helps me out, you know, just to be a better pitcher."
My goal is to go as deep as possible in games."
Hopefully, the Phillies' third ace comes out firing in Game 3 today and Thomson can let him pitch as long as possible.