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Ranger Suárez
Ranger Suárez after recording the third and final out of Game 5 of the NLCS, sending the Phillies to the World Series. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Ranger Suárez’s two pitches of a lifetime in the NLCS

The Venezuelan resumed his role as a closer when the team needed it most in Game 5 of the NLCS.

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With one out in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the National League Championship series at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies looked poised for a trip back to San Diego for Game 6, as the Padres threatened to tie or go ahead in a 4-3 ballgame with runners on first and second.

After Bryce Harper gave the Phillies a one-run lead with a two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth to lift the roof off Citizens Bank Park, Manager Rob Thomson brought David Robertson in to seal the deal against the bottom third of the Padres’ order.

While Robertson got the first batter on strikes, he walked the next two and was quickly pulled. In his place came 27-year-old starter Ranger Suárez in his first relief effort of the 2022 MLB season.

During the season, the Venezuelan was the Phillies’ third starter in the rotation and posted a 10-7 record in 29 starts with a 3.65 earned run average. Since the postseasons started, Suárez has settled even further into his third position in the rotation and has provided a steady third option that produced a solid outing in Game 1 of the NLDS in Atlanta, and picked up his first win in another solid showing in Game 3 of the NLCS against the Padres.

Suárez’s journey to that coveted position in the 2022 postseason is one that begins with the Phillies 10 years earlier in 2012, when he was first signed by the organization as an international free agent in Venezuela. He is a native of Pies de Cuesta in the country’s northwest. 

His first season in the Venezuelan Summer League was cut short due to a drug suspension, but his stock remained on the rise as he traversed more leagues in the Phillies’ farm system over the years. 

He eventually got his big league call up in 2018 when the team needed an additional starting pitcher, and became a mainstay on the team the next year, but as part of the bullpen. It is there, where Suárez was platooned as a closer from time to time between 2019 and 2021. This year was the first where Suárez was part of the regular starting pitching rotation in the number three slot.  

But on Sunday night, Oct. 23, Suárez was asked to assume a role the closer he hadn’t played in more than a year. Still, it was one he approached with the same calm he’s always played with as a big league pitcher.

“They didn’t tell me I would close, but just asked me to be ready,” Suárez was quoted as saying through an interpreter by NJ.com. “I pitched in the bullpen last year. Whatever the team needs, I’ll be ready for it.”

In the end it only took two pitches for Suárez to seal the deal.

The first was a bunt laid down by struggling Padres center fielder Trent Grisham, which Suárez — who is ineligible for a Gold Glove this year, but has been touted as having the best on the team — gathered with ease before firing a strike to first base for the inning’s second out.

The third out came via a fly out to Nick Castellanos in right field on the very next pitch to Padres catcher Austin Nola, sending Citizens Bank Park — and all of Philadelphia — into celebrations that lasted well into the night.

The World Series against the Houston Astros will kick off in Houston on Friday, Oct. 28, and Suárez will likely continue to play the massive role he has on this improbable run.

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