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David Murphy: Can the Phillies unseat the Braves? Here's the route to a title in the NL East.

David Murphy, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Baseball

PHILADELPHIA — There are three things that need to go right for the Phillies to win 100-plus games and unseat the Braves for the division title. They aren’t the only things that need to go right. And they need to be accompanied by a lot of things that do not go wrong. That being said, this is the path:

1. Ranger Suárez is who he should be, or who he could be, instead of who he has been.

— Who Suárez should be: a classic middle-of-the-order out-gobbler who pushes for the league lead in quality starts and ranks in the top 20 in innings.

— Who Suárez could be: a borderline All-Star who makes 30-plus starts and earns a hefty contract extension at a No. 2 starter price point.

— Who Suárez has been: all of those things, in spurts. Which has been perfectly fine for the Phillies. More than fine, really. But that’s not the point of our conversation here. We’re talking about the things that need to go right for the Phillies to win the division and contend for the World Series as something more than an underdog.

Nobody should be surprised if Suárez finishes the year with 180-plus innings and a sub-3.25 ERA. If that happens, then nobody should be surprised if the Phillies are division champs (assuming Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are who they’ve been).

 

All that needs to happen is for Suárez to get rid of those aforementioned spurts.

Or make it a big long spurt. That’s all that Suárez needs to do to make the Phillies better than they look on paper right now — or to offset a less pleasant surprise elsewhere on the roster.

To give you some sense of what I mean, refresh yourself on his numbers from his three best stretches during the last two years. Then, consider that they collectively represent 61% of his total starts.

— May 30 to June 27, 2023: Six starts, 1.35 ERA, 37 strikeouts, 10 walks, 40 innings.

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