Taijuan Walker has felt the aches and pains before.

For a pitcher of his build, this is to be expected. He’s taller than he looks on TV. He’s also solid, with a powerful, athletic figure. His job is to throw hard and do it while constantly forcing his muscular frame in a fast forward and downward motion.

Every pitcher’s delivery is different and unique, and Walker’s has a tendency to be more upright and direct with not a lot of extraneous movement or contortions to create physical deception.

But in it’s simplicity, Walker’s delivery is also a bit rigid, which can often create a feeling of stiffness, which could explain why, at certain times of the day, Walker feels tight, or in certain outings he might appear to be tight, or at the very least, uncomfortable.

As he gets older, he’s noticed it happens with a little more frequently. For example, his previous start against the Mets. It was an early-afternoon game, so his body hadn’t quite gotten through it’s normal “wake up” routine. The result wasn’t what Walker wanted, especially pitching against his former teammates.

He lasted just four innings and 74 pitches. He only allowed two hits, but also posted three walks and allowed three runs in a start where his fastball velocity was way down.

Afterwards, Walker knew exactly what he had to do to get back on track.

“Just moving around a little bit in the outfield, simulating some ground balls and stuff, just kind of getting my body moving more with sprints and stuff,” he said. Just trying to be more athletic, really. …I’ve just got to really make sure I’m moving around a lot out there.”

In other words, on his off days, shagging flies, or taking infield with his teammates before games and running and staying loose.

You mean sitting around all day like a lazy sports blogger isn’t conducive to athletic success? Who knew?

Walker said he started doing the fielding practice in 2021 with the Mets when former teammate and current ace of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff, Marcus Stroman, would do the same thing. The two started doing it together and it led to stretches of success for Walker.

So, this past weekend, he made a point to focus on honing that athleticism while the Phillies were in D.C. He threw a bullpen session on Sunday and his stuff was electric. It created a definite confidence for his start Tuesday against Detroit.

“He’s finding something and I’m excited to see him pitch,” manager Rob Thomson said prior to the game.

It was easy to see why.

Walker was sensational, throwing seven shutout innings against the Tigers, allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out a season-best eight hitters in the Phillies’ 1-0 win over Detroit, their fourth in a row.

It was his longest outing since September 16th, 2022 and the first time he threw seven scoreless innings since July 10th, 2022.

Walker was hitting 96 on his fastballs. His splitter was downright nasty. And the Tigers, who, admittedly are trotting out an awful lineup at the moment, couldn’t touch him:

Detroit didn’t get a hit until there was one out in the fifth inning – which was the only inning Walker got himself in trouble. After allowing a bloop single to Zack Short, Walker gave up a double to Miguel Cabrera and walked Jake Rogers to load the bases.

But Walker was able to strike out Jake Marisnick and induced a fly out to centerfield by Zach McKinstry to end the threat.

It was a key sequence, as the Phillies were struggling to get anything going offensively for much of the night.

After Kyle Schwarber’s leadoff homer, the Phillies were only able to muster two singles themselves – an infield single by Bryson Stott in the fifth, and an opposite field dunker by Kody Clemens in the sixth.

So Walker had to be as good as was, because there was no margin for error. Good thing he got all that fielding practice in ahead of time, eh?

“You’ll see me out there,” he said about his future off days. “I’ll be doing ground balls with the infielders and stuff.”

Schwarberfest

Here’s Schwarber’s homer that accounted for the only run of the game:

It was his 15th homer of the season and 50th in the month of June for his career. It was also the 21st time in his career Schwarber has led off a game with a homer- the eighth time as a Phillie.

I don’t want to rehash this whole June Schwarber thing again, so I won’t – other than to throw this little nugget at you – Schwarber averages a home run every 9.64 at bats in the month of June. Among players with at least 500 plate appearances in the month, it’s the best home run rate in the modern era of baseball (since 1900).

Bullish Pen

Seranthony Dominguez had a hold and Craig Kimbrel picked up his ninth save Tuesday, and both were dominant.

They combined for five strikeouts in two innings. It’s a pattern the Phillies have been seeing a lot out of their bullpen on a consistent basis.

Since April 18th, Dominguez has appeared in 21 games. He’s thrown 18 1/3 innings and allowed just one earned run. That’s an ERA of 0.49. He’s also struck out 22 batters while walking just five.

Meanwhile, since allowing the walk-off grand slam to Max Muncy in the finale of the Dodgers series on May 3rd, Kimbrel has made 11 appearances and in 11 innings has allowed just two runs and three hits (1.64 ERA) with 19 strikeouts to just two walks.

They were the guys Tuesday, but the rest of the bullpen has been excellent too.

Jeff Hoffman has a 0.77 ERA in his 10 appearances since being called up from the minors, with 16 strikeouts while Yunior Marte hasn’t allowed a run in seven appearances since being recalled from the minors after making a couple of mechanical adjustments.

Add in the fact that Jose Alvarado is set to return from the I.L. on Friday and guys like Matt Strahm and Andrew Vazquez have been consistently good in multi-inning roles and the Phillies bullpen is as reliable as it’s been in years.

If Gregory Soto can have more consistency (when he’s been good, he’s been great. When he’s not been good, he’s been awful) and Connor Brogdon can get back to what he was doing right before his recent stretch of bad outings, it could be one of the best – if not the best – bullpen in baseball.