Two early-season staff aces will square off Saturday when the Philadelphia Phillies visit the Cincinnati Reds in the third game of a four-game series
The Phillies will send their most effective pitcher to the mound when left-hander Matt Strahm (1-0, 0.00) starts opposite Cincinnati right-hander Graham Ashcraft (1-0, 2.08)
Strahm will make his third start and fourth appearance of the season. He has allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out 10 in 10 shutout innings. In four career games against the Reds (one start), he is 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 15 strikeouts
Ashcraft has allowed just three runs and 10 hits over 13 innings in his first two starts. He is making his first career appearance against Philadelphia.
Spencer Steer has been at the heart of a rejuvenated approach for Cincinnati hitters early in the 2023 season. This has resulted in the Reds being able to battle and stay in nearly every game they've played despite losing eight of their first 13 games
In Thursday's 6-2 win, the Reds had four consecutive two-out hits in a decisive three-run third inning. Words from manager David Bell played a part, Steer said
"He talked to us the other day and his message was, ‘Keep fighting for every inch,' and I think that mentality goes straight in the box to find a way to win every pitch," Steer said. "With two strikes, it's about finding a way to put balls in play. Putting the ball in play and putting pressure on the defense and sometimes those ground balls find holes."
Steer has hit safely in nine of his 12 starts, all coming at third base.
Reds infielder Kevin Newman got the night off Friday after getting hit by a McKinley Moore fastball in the left shoulder in the sixth inning of Thursday's game
Jason Vosler, helping to fill in for the rehabbing Joey Votto at first base, is hitless in his past 15 at-bats, going 0-for-3 Friday night with two strikeouts. After starting with three home runs in the first week of the season, Vosler is 1-for-26 since his most recent home run on April 4.
Reds reliever Tony Santillan suffered a setback in his recovery from a lower-back stress fracture when the club stopped his rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville on Friday after three appearances. The right-hander developed right-knee discomfort and returned to Cincinnati for an MRI exam
The Phillies hope lefty Ranger Suarez (left forearm) is still on track for a return in late April or early May. After throwing between 30 and 35 pitches Tuesday in Philadelphia, Suarez threw approximately 50 pitches before Friday's game in Cincinnati
"We'll figure it out," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. "If he comes out of that fine, he'll progress to batting practice.
The next step is live batting practice early next week. The Phillies canceled the plan to have him ready for Opening Day after shutting him down late in March to rest. They said an MRI exam revealed no structural damage
Another lefty pitcher, Cristopher Sanchez (left triceps) is still in line for a late-April return to the Phillies' staff. Sanchez threw a bullpen on Thursday
"He felt very good," Thomson added.
In his first rehab outing last Monday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Sanchez struck out six over four hitless innings.
Phillies left-handed reliever Jose Alvarado has been overpowering over his first six appearances, striking out 16 of his 22 batters faced over 6 1/3 innings, including fanning three in the eighth inning of Friday's 8-3 win for the Phillies
--Field Level Media