Phillies by far the best rotation in NL through six series

Phillies by far the best rotation in NL through six series originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies took advantage of the opportunity in front of them early this week, beating the Rockies with starting pitching, defense and two of their better offensive nights of the season.

The starters set the tone in all three games, with Aaron Nola pitching into the eighth inning Monday, Ranger Suarez firing his second career shutout Tuesday and Cristopher Sanchez striking out 10 without an earned run over six innings in the finale.

Three games, three quality starts. The Phillies have 12 to lead the National League.

The Phils rotation’s 2.54 ERA is the best in the NL. So is its 1.06 WHIP. And its 109 2/3 innings. And its 117 strikeouts.

Phillies starters have allowed a .207/.268/.325 opposing slash-line. That’s the lowest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage allowed by any staff.

They also have the highest groundball rate in the league.

The Phillies are 11-8 through a down offensive period mainly because of their pitching.

“All we can do as pitchers is give those guys the best chance and I feel like we have for the most part,” Nola said.

“Grinding. We’re competing. Haven’t scored many runs but that’s gonna come, for sure. Our team’s too good. We’ve seen what our lineup can do so I don’t think anybody’s gonna hang their head over that. We’ve got a lot of baseball left.”

There will be times this season when the offense saves or carries the pitching. The Phillies played in cold, rainy or windy conditions for much of their first five series. That probably affected the lineups on both sides.

They’ve shown some signs of coming out of it. Trea Turner is rolling, hitting .425 with six extra-base hits in his last 10 games. Kyle Schwarber is coming off a two-homer game. J.T. Realmuto’s hit safely in six of the last seven and drove in important runs Tuesday and Wednesday. Bryce Harper mashed a doubled and a homer, each 104 mph off the bat, in his final two at-bats in the middle game vs. Colorado. Johan Rojas’ ABs have improved in quality since the Cardinals series. Brandon Marsh is hitting .288 with an .848 OPS.

Nola and Suarez were asked this week if the pitchers view it as the rotation doing its part now with the knowledge that the offense would eventually pay it back.

“As pitchers, we don’t really think about that kind of stuff,” Nola said. “We want to go out and do our part regardless of the situation. Be quality out there no matter the situation because as pitchers, we can’t control what the offense does, the offense can’t control what the pitchers do. Each guy’s got to do their part and that’s what we’re focused on.”

The Phillies are built as much around starting pitching at this point as they are offense. Zack Wheeler’s recent extension makes him the fourth-highest-paid player ever on an annual basis. Nola re-upped for seven years and $172 million over the offseason. Taijuan Walker is in the second year of a four-year, $72 million contract. Suarez is already established, and if he can stay healthy this season, should set all sorts of career-highs as he nears his eventual payday (free agent after 2025). Sanchez is ascending and has a 3.29 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP, 122 strikeouts and 25 walks in 123 innings since the start of 2023, production that cannot be denied. For nearly a year, he’s pitched more like a No. 2 starter than a No. 5.

“Sanchy was great,” Thomson said Wednesday night after the lefty induced 18 swinging strikes on 97 pitches, nearly double the league average. “A lot of strikes, located his fastball, back-of-the-plate sliders that they were swinging through, changeups they were swinging through, a lot of swing-and-miss. Great poise.

“They really pitched well and hopefully they keep it going.”

The Phillies are off Thursday before beginning the third and final leg of their season-long 10-game homestand. The White Sox, at 3-15, come to town in even worse shape than the Rockies. Their top threat, Luis Robert Jr., is out at least another month with a hip injury. The lineup has maybe two players who’d be everyday guys for other teams in Eloy Jimenez and Andrew Vaughn. The rotation’s most accomplished arms are Erick Fedde and Mike Soroka.

The Phillies have Spencer Turnbull, Wheeler and Nola going in the series.

The White Sox will start lefty Garrett Crochet (1-2, 3.57), Soroka (0-2, 6.98) and right-hander Nick Nastrini, who’s pitched once in the big leagues.