NEW YORK — A few hours before Tuesday’s game, Brandon Marsh took stock of the energy in the Phillies clubhouse. They were 0-4 at the start of the season, but he wasn’t too worried.
“I don’t see any frowns,” the center fielder said. He glanced at lefty Matt Strahm, who was sitting across the room, preparing for his start against the Yankees that night.
“We’ve got ‘Pastrami’ in the rut today,” Marsh said. “I am ready to see him compete. And play better defense behind him. He is the man. I’ll go to war with that guy any day.”
Strahm did not disappoint. In his first start since Aug. 17, 2021, when he pitched just one inning as the Padres’ starter, the lefty gave the Phillies four scoreless one-hit innings and a walk en route to a 4-1. beat the Yankees.
In the fourth inning, he struck out Aaron Judge and then yelled into the Yankees dugout.
It wasn’t because Strahm had struck out the reigning AL MVP. It was because he had lost his speeder.
“It felt good? I cursed myself afterwards,” Strahm said. “It didn’t feel very good to hang one up and get away with it. But sometimes it’s better luck than good.
Strahm admits he’s a perfectionist, which is why his last extended stint as a starter, in 2019 with San Diego, was so frustrating for him. Strahm had a five-pitch stockpile at his disposal, but he thought too much. He was trying to save certain pitches for later at-bats, and he realized he wasn’t throwing pitches the same way he did from the bullpen.
“I wasn’t pitching with conviction,” said Strahm, who joined the Phillies as a free agent in December signing a two-year, $15 million contract. “Personally I think the correct pitch is the one with the most conviction. It may not be the right pitch for that hitter, but that’s where I feel strong. I will fight fire with fire every day.”
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Strahm finished that 2019 season with a 5.29 ERA in 16 starts. This spring, the Phillies gave him a chance to try again. When starter Ranger Suárez was diagnosed with a left elbow strain in mid-March, it was Strahm they turned to to take Suárez’s place. Strahm was excited, and rightly so.
As a reliever who had only three weeks to hurriedly build up his workload, he was perhaps the last person the Phillies expected to give them four scoreless innings. But on Tuesday night, in front of a raucous 35,392 fans at Yankee Stadium, he showed that he had learned something from that disappointing 2019 season. He wasn’t tentative. He wasn’t holding back. Instead, he pitched with conviction.
“I refuse to call myself a reliever or a starter,” said Strahm, who was given a 65-pitch limit and finished with 61, including 42 strikes. “I’m just a pitcher. So whatever they need, and whenever they need it, I’m ready to do it.”
Bats warm up…
The Phillies improvised 10 hits on Tuesday night. Four of their nine batters had multi-hit games: Jake Cave, Bryson Stott, Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber. Marsh hit his first home run of the season in the third inning, a 436-foot throw to center field.
Both Turner and Schwarber had two-out RBI singles in the fifth inning.
… And the bullpen blocks it
The Phillies pitching staff as a whole allowed just four hits and one run against a formidable Yankees lineup. The bullpen, Andrew Bellatti, José Alvarado, Connor Brogdon and Craig Kimbrel, allowed only three hits, one walk and one run.
Things got a little exciting in the ninth. Kimbrel induced a fly ball by Anthony Volpe, followed by a home run by DJ LeMahieu. From there, he allowed a walk, a fly ball and a single to put runners on first and second with two outs. But with the tying run at the plate, he fouled out Josh Donaldson to end the game.
“Kimbrel was bent, but he wasn’t broken,” manager Rob Thomson said of the bullpen. “The work that Alvarado, Bellatti and Brogdon did was just phenomenal. You can’t walk with people, and we didn’t tonight. You can walk a little bit here and there, but at the rate we were going (in the first four games), we weren’t going to do very well.”
Schwarber’s 200th HR
Schwarber set the tone from the start. In the first inning, he hit a 415-foot home run to right-center field to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. It was his first home run of the season and the 200th of his career.
“It feels good, but I think the most important thing is to start with an advantage,” he said. “I think personal achievements, those things will come after you finish playing. It’s a cool stat. But happy for the victory.”
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