PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Matt Strahm has advocated for teams to cut off beer sales in — and for his starts to go longer than — the sixth inning.
But Philadelphia’s long-haired lefty striking out batters at a fantastic clip knows he really doesn’t have a say in either decision. So the best Strahm can do is enjoy the ride and get batters out for as long as manager Rob Thomson lets him have the ball.
Kody Clemens ripped an RBI single to right, Strahm pitched scoreless ball into the sixth inning, and the Philadelphia Phillies moved to .500 for the first time this season with a 1-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.
“As a starter, I’m trying to shake the catcher’s hand at the end of the game,” Strahm said. “When he comes out and takes the ball, he takes the ball.”
The NL champion Phillies took the final two games of the three-game set with the Mariners. Strahm (2-2) and four relievers helped get the Phillies to 13-13 as they head out for a six-game road trip. The Phillies started 0-4 and 5-10 but have won eight of 11 to straighten out their season.
Craig Kimbrel worked a scoreless ninth for his third save and 397th of his career, putting him on the brink of becoming the seventh reliever to ever record 400.
Signed as a free agent to fortify the bullpen, Strahm only made the starting rotation because of injuries to Ranger Suárez and top prospect Andrew Painter. Strahm made as many as 16 starts with San Diego in 2019 but made all 50 appearances out of the bullpen last season with Boston.
He pitched an inning of relief on opening day, and has now made five straight starts, highlighted by an 11-K performance the last time out against Colorado. Strahm, who criticized some Major League Baseball teams for extending alcohol sales because of faster games as a result of the pitch clock, struck out five and walked none over 5 1/3 scoreless innings.
Thomson gave Strahm the hook after 68 pitches and before he could go through Seattle’s lineup a third time.
“It’s his team. Whatever he wants me to do, I’ll do,” Strahm said. “And I’m open to it all.”
That might include a move back to the bullpen once Suarez returns to the rotation.
“He’s such a weapon out of the bullpen,” Thomson said. “He’s such a high-leverage guy. He can be a one-inning guy. He can be a four-inning guy to keep you in the game if your starter gets knocked out early. I think he’s got a lot of value out of the bullpen.”
Phillies fans had to hurry to suck down their suds in this one: They won in 2 hours, 4 minutes.
The Phillies got two of their three hits in the second inning to send Mariners starter George Kirby (2-2) to a tough-luck loss. Nick Castellanos extended his hitting streak to eight games with a leadoff single. Kirby retired the next two batters before he allowed Clemens’ single to right.
Clemens, who entered hitting just .105, has contributed more of late playing in place of injured Rhys Hoskins. Clemens hit his first homer with the Phillies against Colorado on Sunday, then won the game against Seattle — his go-ahead single to right reminiscent of the go-head rip dad Roger hit for Houston at Citizens Bank Park in 2004.
“No way,” Clemens, born in 1996, said with a laugh when told of his dad’s hit. “Hell yeah.”
Phillies: RHP Taijuan Walker did not need an MRI and was not expected to miss a start after he complained of elbow tightness a night earlier. … Painter, who suffered a right elbow injury in spring training, continues to play catch. The Phillies have not ruled out Painter making a midseason return. “If he’s better than what we’ve got, absolutely,” Thomson said. “It’s game on for me. We’ll just see how he progresses. But we will not put him in jeopardy, that’s for sure.”
Phillies slugger Bryce Harper is scheduled for a May 1 exam by Dr. Neal ElAttrache — the orthopedic surgeon who performed Harper’s Tommy John surgery last fall — that could clear the two-time MVP to return to the lineup. Harper could return in less than six months from a surgery that typically takes a year to come back from.
Thomson said he really doesn’t know if Harper will get the OK to start playing baseball again.
“In my mind, I think so,” he said. “But you don’t know until the doc sees him.”
The Mariners’ road trip continues and they send HRP Luis Castillo (2-0, 1.52 ERA) to the mound against Toronto RHP (Alek Manoah, 1-1, 5.13 ERA) on Friday for the start of a three-game set.
The Phillies head to Houston and send RHP Aaron Nola (1-2, 5.40 ERA) to the mound against LHP Framber Valdez (2-2, 2.25 ERA).