For the first time since April, there was a chill in the air at Citizens Bank Park.

On what was the first day of Autumn, the temperature appropriately dipped from those warm summer nights at the ball park to mid-50s with swirling winds.

The batters suddenly were facing stiff challenges.

Marcell Ozuna crushed a ball to the left field wall that Kyle Schwarber caught against the fence. Yesterday, it might have hit the facade of the second deck.

Schwarber blasted one to right field that off the bat seemed like a guaranteed No. 41 for the season, only to have it knocked down by the wind and an easy catch for Robbie Grossman.

Rhys Hoskins blasted a ball to left field that just suddenly stopped in mid-air and fell to the turf for a double that would have been a home run any other day of the year.

But when you get to late September baseball, this is what happens. The weather changes. The summer time, widely known around these parts thanks to good ol’ Charlie Manuel, is known as “hittin’ season.” But when it gets down to the final games of the regular season and the playoffs, the teams that win are the teams that can pitch.

The Phillies won a pitcher’s duel with the Braves Thursday, 1-0. It was a huge win for the Phillies. It reduced their magic number for the playoffs to 10. It moved them within a half game of the Padres for the No. 5 seed. It kept them 2 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers for the No. 6 seed.

And if the Phillies are to make it to the postseason for the first time in 11 years, and plan to last more than just the opening weekend in another city (either St. Louis, Atlanta or New York), they’re going to need the kind of pitching they got in this game.

Check that… they’re going to need these three pitchers, specifically, to make noise in the post season.

Let’s break them down:


A few weeks ago, there was major concern that Suarez wouldn’t be able to be relied on as the Phillies No. 3 pitcher in the postseason. On Aug. 29, he got chased in the fourth inning of a game in Arizona and followed that up with another subpar, 4-inning start in San Francisco.

But Suarez has answered the bell sine, going at least six innings in his last three starts, and impressively, his last two against a potent Atlanta lineup.

Against those Braves, Suarez has pitched 12 innings and allowed just one run. That bodes well.

What was really working for him, was keeping the ball down in the zone. Suarez induced 10 ground ball outs in five innings. the other five outs? four strikeouts and Ozuna’s fly out to the wall.

When Suarez is keeping the ball down, he’s incredibly difficult to hit – and he has been for much of the season.

In fact, in his last 12 starts, which includes those two aforementioned clunkers, Suarez is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA holding opponents to .213/.278/.305 and a .584 OPS.

And before you go and point out the Phillies played a lot of weak opposition in that time, four of those starts have come against Atlanta and the the New York Mets. In those four starts he’s pitched 24 innings and has yielded just two earned runs.


He’s been the forgotten about Phillies pitcher. Dealing with his knee injuries for much of the season, Eflin was out of sight, out of mind.

But, he has returned recently in a new role with a new outlook, and potentially has become a very unique weapon for interim manager Rob Thomson.

Eflin can throw multiple innings out of the pen, and do so with authority. He can be used for length if a starter runs short, or he can be used in the moment to get high leverage outs – much like he did against the Braves Thursday.

Eflin threw 1 2/3 innings, didn’t yield a walk or a hit, and had three strikeouts. He allegedly hit a batter, but replays showed he didn’t. The Phillies challenged the call. It wasn’t overturned. Gotta love the systems in place in baseball.

With Eflin now in the mix, and the ability to throw more than one inning, it takes a lot of pressure off the back end of the bullpen, which has been leaking oil lately

Mix in Eflin, and likely Baily Falter (for a three-game series, anyway) and that will make the bullpen robust.


Here’s a mea culpa for you:

.Alvarado is lights out. Thomson said they are building him up to also be available for more than one inning. It looks like there’s also going to be a bit of a rotation at the closer spot between Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez and David Robertson.

Thomson will play matchups to try to get an edge in each scenario, but now having a wealth of options – all of which have had sustained success for the Phillies at one point or another this season – could make the Phillies bullpen the most crucial part of their playoff push and subsequent run in the postseason.

Speaking of running. Alvarado cracked up the entire press box, all of the 21,000+_ in attendance, the thousands watching at home, and social media denizens across the globe with his effort on this one-pitch out to get Matt Olson in the eighth inning:


Truly, where would the Phillies be at this point without the contributions they’ve gotten from the bottom of the lineup? These role players have been difference makers.

Guthrie, in his first seven career games is hitting .500. He’s also walked five times (OBP .632) and it should have been six if not for the worst called strike of the season by an umpire.

Home plate ump Andy Fletcher wrung up Guthrie on this 3-2 pitch:

Hitting coach Kevin Long got tossed for arguing the call from the bench. Fletcher had a rough night. He wrung up Hoskins in the third inning on a ball as well. Hoskins wasn’t happy and told Fletcher it was a foot inside.

But, the Phillies got a break on a bad call by Fletcher in the ninth inning. With a runner on first and two outs, Alvarado’s 3-1 pitch to Robbie Grossman was a clear ball. But, Fletcher called it a strike. The next pitch ended the game.