On the first night of a 10th straight October that will not include playoff baseball for the Phillies, they won a game in Miami to achieve their first winning season since 2011 -- a small, ultimately unfulfilling sign of progress for a fanbase that expected more from a team with a payroll over $200 million.
They beat the Marlins, 5-0, and are 82-78 with two games left.
"It was gut-wrenching, what we went through in Atlanta," manager Joe Girardi said a night after the Phillies watched the Braves celebrate at their expense. "But finishing over .500 is important and we need to build on that. I think you have to take steps a lot of times."
All that matters for the Phils over these final 48 hours is individual performance and two players that have stood out for months did so again Friday night, with Bryce Harper continuing his tremendous season and Ranger Suarez finishing his.
Suarez, the Phillies’ third-best player this season behind Harper and Zack Wheeler, was brilliant again in his final start. He pitched seven scoreless innings to end his year with 21 in a row.
Suarez made 12 starts. He allowed 11 runs. He finishes with a 1.36 ERA, the lowest by any major-league pitcher with at least 100 innings since Bruce Sutter in 1977. It's the lowest by any Phillie with at least 100 innings since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1915.
"You have to aim really high to accomplish things like that," Suarez said. "Sometimes you don't think you can do things like that, but when it happens, all the hard work pays off and makes sense.
"I think it’s all about confidence. The confidence they gave me in the clubhouse, every single person, that gave me the belief that I could do it, that I could do things that maybe I didn’t know I could do.”
Suarez was a bright spot for the Phillies this season during a dark period of player development. He not only thrived in all three roles he filled but thrived immediately. He had a 0.88 ERA when he became the closer, a 1.86 ERA as the closer and then a 1.51 ERA as a starter.
In his final eight starts, Suarez posted a 1.24 ERA and averaged just over 6⅓ innings. The Phillies feel good about him as a No. 2 or 3 starter heading into 2022.
“He was important to our rotation, he was important wherever we put him this year," Girardi said. "He excelled in every spot we put him in. It’s great to see him finish strong. We love the way he threw the ball all year long and it’s important for us moving forward."
The offense woke up against a good pitcher in Sandy Alcantara. The Phils scored three runs in the third inning after Alcantara hit Andrew Knapp and Suarez. Odubel Herrera singled in a run, Harper doubled in Suarez and Didi Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly to the wall in right that would have been a grand slam in most parks.
Harper rolled his ankle on an awkward landing at second base in the third inning and was tended to but stayed in the game. He homered two innings later. Harper has 41 doubles, 35 homers, 84 RBI, 100 runs scored and 99 walks. He is hitting .308 and leads the majors in OPS.
Rookie Matt Vierling homered in the ninth inning, his second. He's hit .344 in 70 plate appearances.
The Phillies sat J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura a night after being eliminated in Atlanta. Realmuto is dealing with a bruished shin and Segura has back soreness. Girardi hopes to have Realmuto on Saturday but it sounds like Segura could be done.
The Phils will start rookie Hans Crouse on Saturday. Zack Wheeler will not start Sunday. His season is over. The Phillies don't want to push it with nothing to gain. Wheeler, a Cy Young candidate, leads the majors in innings pitched, pitches thrown and batters faced.
It will take more than Wheeler, Harper and Suarez in 2022.
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