(Photo credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)
The Philadelphia Phillies need left-hander Ranger Suarez to be at his best as they try to lock down a National League wild-card berth.
Suarez (2-6, 3.93 ERA) was in top form to begin his last start when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Sunday. He will try to build on that success Saturday as the visiting Phillies (80-67) face the Cardinals (65-82) in the middle contest of a three-game set in St. Louis.
The Phillies edged the Cardinals 5-4 in the series opener Friday to snap their modest two-game losing streak.
Suarez retired 18 of the first 20 batters he faced on Sunday and stuck out 10. Then he allowed three runs while retiring just one batter in the seventh inning, and the Phillies went on to lose 5-4 to the Miami Marlins.
But manager Rob Thomson loved what he saw from Suarez, who endured elbow and hamstring issues earlier this season while enjoying only sporadic success. Suarez worked a three-pitch mix to keep the Marlins off balance.
"I was really happy with what Ranger did; he was fantastic," Thomson said. "He had everything going, really. Curveball was sharp. Changeup was really effective. Fastball, it looked like he was locating.
"The more guys that are pitching well, the better off you are going to be."
This will be Suarez's first career start against the Cardinals. He has only faced St. Louis hitters Nolan Arenado (1-for-1) and Willson Contreras (1-for-3, double) in regular-season games.
The Cardinals will turn Saturday to right-hander Miles Mikolas (7-11, 4.75 ERA), who has allowed five homers in his two starts this month.
In his last start, a 7-1 loss to the Reds at Cincinnati on Sunday, Mikolas allowed five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. Afterward, he bemoaned his season-long struggle.
"If you're taking the on-and-off thing, next year I should be great," Mikolas told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Every other year seems to be a really good year. So place your bets now on me having a pretty good season next year. MGM Bets -- whoever is sponsoring -- throw me a bone maybe. Place them now. I didn't expect to have this bad of a year when it started. But I absolutely don't expect to have this kind of year next year."
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol noted that Mikolas has elevated too many pitches this season.
"I think there have been some pitches he would like back, that creep back over the plate or kind of belt high," Marmol said.
"When he has wanted to play the chase, he hasn't been able to get the ball there against certain guys you know have a high chase rate. If you can eliminate a pitch or two off of him, that's his whole game -- is not being able to eliminate a pitch."
Mikolas suffered a 7-2 loss at Philadelphia on Aug. 25. He allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings, with Alec Bohm leading the attack with a homer and a double.
In his career, Mikolas is 2-2 with a 3.98 ERA in six appearances (five starts) against the Phillies.
--Field Level Media