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‘I believe we can line him up': Thomson confident Suarez will be ready for London

‘I believe we can line him up': Thomson confident Suarez will be ready for London originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Going into this season, there was a lot of talk about how this could be the year Phillies righthander Zack Wheeler took home some hardware. And he’s certainly pitched well enough to be in the Cy Young conversation when the time comes.

Then Ranger Suarez started winning. And winning and winning and winning. Much of the focus shifted to him.

For those who are suckers for a good coming of age story, what about Cristopher Sanchez? Something of a surprise choice when he was called up last season, he has a 2.71 earned run average after a dozen starts.

And then there was Aaron Nola. Maybe it’s because he made his Phillies debut in 2015. Maybe it’s because he was cuffed around by the Braves in his first start of the season, allowing seven runs (six earned).

Well, don’t look now but Nola is at the top of his game again. He allowed just two hits in seven shutout innings as the Phillies completed their sweep of the first-place Brewers, 2-0, at Citizens Bank Park. His ERA (2.77) is under three for the first time this season. And in his last five starts, his ERA is 1.45. That’s his best five-game stretch since 2019.

“He was really good,” manager Rob Thomson said after the game. “His breaking ball was really sharp and his command was really, really good.”

Nola, who became a free agent last winter before signing a 7-year, $172 million contract, has consistently said uncertainty about his future didn’t impact him last season. But he seems more at ease this year.

“I’m just grateful to be back over here,” he said. “This is where I’ve always wanted to be. Last year was an up-and-down season with the contract negotiations and everything. But that didn’t affect me.”

Instead, he said, his improvement this year is a result of staying more consistent with his delivery and simplify his approach.”

RANGER’S READY

When Phillies lefthander Ranger Suarez intercepted a line drive with his thumb against the Cardinals last Saturday night, the following sentence seemed improbable at best:

Suarez (9-1, 1.70) will start against the Mets Saturday in London on what would have been his normally scheduled day.

“I believe we can line him up,” manager Rob Thomson said. A further sign that the team is confident he’ll be ready is that Spencer Turnbull, who would have filled in if necessary, was available out of the bullpen for Wednesday’s series finale against the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park.

Suarez was originally scheduled to throw a bullpen Wednesday, but opted instead to play catch, including long toss, in the outfield. He’ll throw a light bullpen Friday at London Stadium. It helps that he’ll have two extra days of rest because of the built-in off days that preceded the long flight to Europe.

Thomson has made it clear he’s feels fortunate that the 28-year-old, who has been one of baseball’s best pitchers so far this season, wasn’t seriously injured. “That could have been really bad,” he said.

Taijuan Walker (3-1, 5.73) will start Sunday.

NOTABLE: Catcher J.T. Realmuto, who took a foul tip off his protective cup and was also involved in a home plate collision Tuesday night, was out of the lineup as a result Wednesday. “He’s sore all over,” Rob Thomson said. “I just need to give him a day off. That will give him three in a row and he’ll be fine for the weekend.”

Each team is allowed to take a “taxi squad” of three extra players to London. For the Phillies it will be catcher Rafael Marchan, first baseman Darick Hall and righthanded reliever Nick Nelson.

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