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J.T. Realmuto fights through his shoulder injury to deliver big swings | Extra Innings

Manager Joe Girardi continues to insist that Realmuto won't need offseason surgery, but not even the star catcher's teammates know the extent of his shoulder problem.

J.T. Realmuto tracks his go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of the Phillies' 6-5 walkoff victory Wednesday night over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park.
J.T. Realmuto tracks his go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of the Phillies' 6-5 walkoff victory Wednesday night over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Not even J.T. Realmuto’s teammates know the extent of his right shoulder injury.

“We ask him how he’s feeling, and he keeps it pretty close to his chest,” Phillies backup catcher Andrew Knapp said Wednesday. “But for him to have to go and get a shot, it’s obviously been bugging him.”

Realmuto received an anti-inflammatory injection Sunday night, sat out one game, and returned Wednesday night, albeit at first base rather than catcher. He picked up two big hits, too, an RBI single in the fifth inning and a solo homer in the eighth. After blowing two saves to increase their league-leading total to 32, the Phillies eventually beat the Chicago Cubs, 6-5, on a passed ball in the ninth inning.

But Realmuto’s presence in the cleanup spot was a sight for manager Joe Girardi’s sore eyes after the Phillies had mustered six hits and hit into four double plays Tuesday night.

“J.T. had a great night for us,” Girardi said. “It’s great to have him back in the lineup.”

Based on his conversations with the Phillies’ medical staff, Girardi reiterated that Realmuto’s shoulder isn’t expected to require surgical intervention in the offseason. Realmuto has dismissed the injury as “everyday wear and tear” and said it’s most bothersome when he swings and misses.

Hitting home runs is the perfect elixir.

“He’s a stud,” Knapp said. “For him to be able to come off of that [shot] and get a couple hits, especially that huge home run, he’s just a grinder. He’s out there, he’s a leader, and we need him on the field. That was huge for us.”

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The rundown

Better late than never, the Phillies reached the 85% threshold for vaccinated players and staff, enabling them to relax some of the protocols in the clubhouse and on the road.

The Phillies won despite their bullpen. But what matters was that they won — and picked up a game on the first-place Atlanta Braves, too.

Everyone knows the Phillies are chasing the NL East title, but the second wild-card berth is at play, too. Here is a breakdown of the crowded field that is vying for that spot.

Did you notice that Bryce Harper didn’t run hard out of the box on a line-drive double off the right-field scoreboard Tuesday night? It didn’t escape the notice of longtime radio announcer Larry Andersen, and L.A. had some sharp criticism for Harper.

Important dates

Tonight: Phillies bullpen vs. Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, 6:05 p.m.

Tomorrow: Zack Wheeler vs. Mets righty Taijuan Walker in New York, 7:10 p.m.

Saturday: Aaron Nola vs. ex-Phillies prospect Carlos Carrasco, 7:15 p.m.

Sunday: Kyle Gibson faces the Mets on Sunday Night Baseball, 7:08 p.m.

Monday: The Phillies host the Baltimore Orioles, 7:05 p.m.

Stat of the day

Ranger Suárez went 45 innings without giving up a homer before Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel took him deep Wednesday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Suárez was the third Phillies pitcher since 1961 to not allow a homer in at least 35 innings over his first eight starts of a season. The others: Dick Ruthven (1979) and Dickie Noles (1981).

Bonus stat: Lefties are hitting .106 (9-for-85) with eight walks against Suárez. His .321 on-base-plus-slugging against left-handed hitters would be the lowest by a Phillies pitcher (minimum 90 batters faced) since 1974, trailing only J.C. Romero (.346 in 2008).

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.

Question: Do the Phillies’ pitchers suffer from allergic reactions when they get into 0-2 or 1-2 counts? [Last] Thursday, Ian Kennedy was one strike away from winning the game, and [Sunday] Aaron Nola and Hector Neris give up home runs on 0-2 counts. I think I miss Jonathan Papelbon. — Tom M. via email

Answer: Thanks, Tom. I know what you mean. Who among us wouldn’t want to see America’s favorite crotch-grabbing closer and Harper in the same dugout again?

A lot has been written lately about the Phillies’ 0-2 trouble. Girardi and Realmuto agree that the problem stems more from pitchers missing their spots than poor pitch calling. “Just about every hitter in baseball chases a fastball and a breaking ball. There’s a certain location you can go to get the chase,” Realmuto said Sunday. “So it’s not necessarily the pitch selection. It’s where we’re throwing it and being able to execute the location, specifically with fastballs.”

It’s also nothing new. Since 2019, the Phillies have given up the second-most homers (16) and are tied for the fifth-most hits (96) in 0-2 counts. File it away as another organizational problem that must be addressed.