CINCINNATI — Rookie left-hander Ranger Suarez enjoyed a solid major-league debut and the Phillies’ bats continued to show big power in the team’s 9-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Thursday night.
Suarez, 22, pitched into the sixth inning and picked up the victory. He was backed by seven home runs, including two each by Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco and Nick Williams.
The seven homers tied a franchise record set on Sept. 8, 1998, against the New York Mets.
The win improved the Phillies to a season-high 14 games over .500.
Meanwhile in Atlanta, the Braves lost to the Dodgers. So the Phillies’ lead in the NL East is 2½ games.
The Phils have hit 20 home runs in seven games since the All-Star break and they are 5-2 in those games, averaging 6.7 runs. Hoskins has six homers in his last six games and a team-high 20 on the season. He also doubled in the game, giving him three in the last six games.
Hoskins got the Phillies on the board with a solo shot in the first inning. Two batters later, Carlos Santana drilled a two-run homer. Both long balls came against Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle, who was knocked out before getting an out in the second inning. The Reds’ bullpen had to pick up eight innings in the first game of a four-game series and that could ultimately help the Phillies.
Franco had his second two-homer game in four days. He is up to 17 homers on the season and has raised his batting average from .240 entering play on June 23 to .273. His solo homer in the fifth broke a 4-4 tie.
Williams had a pair of singles to go along with his two homers. He is hitting .260 with 14 homers.
Suarez became the first lefty to start for the Phillies in 267 games, since Adam Morgan faced the Braves on Sept. 28, 2016. He gave up six hits and four runs over five-plus innings. All of the Reds’ runs came on a pair of two-run homers. The two homers were as many as Suarez had given up in 90 2/3 innings in the minor leagues this season.
The bullpen, which has been baseball’s best in the month of July, continued to excel as Luis Garcia, Pat Neshek, Morgan, Tommy Hunter and Jake Thompson combined on four scoreless innings. Hunter got two important outs in the eighth after Morgan allowed a pair of hits.
The Phillies signed Suarez for $25,000 out of his native Venezuela in 2012. He had pitched to a 2.38 ERA in 15 starts at Double A and Triple A this season and was coveted by the Baltimore Orioles in recent trade talks involving Manny Machado.
Suarez was brought up because the Phillies needed an extra starting pitcher after playing a doubleheader on Sunday. With an extra pitcher on board, the Philles played with just a three-man bench. That will change quickly. Suarez was optioned back to Triple A and the Phils are expected to add a player to their bench for Friday night’s game against the Reds. Roman Quinn could end up being that guy. The speedy, switch-hitting outfielder is fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right middle finger and has played well in the minors. His speed and defensive skill could make him a weapon off the bench.