Ranger Suárez pitched a shutout on Saturday, but he threw just 97 pitches, a workload so light that he didn’t need to immediately ice his arm after returning to the clubhouse.

“It’s a possibility,” Suárez said after the game about icing his arm.

The lefthander has been an unlikely boon to the starting rotation; it can be easily argued that he’s currently their second-best starter behind Zack Wheeler. And his lack of ice was a good indication that Suárez is fresh and does not need an extra day of rest this week.

So with the season on the line, the Phillies should line up Suárez to pitch Thursday’s series finale in Atlanta on regular rest instead of starting Friday’s opener in Miami on extra rest. This would allow Kyle Gibson to start Friday.

The Phillies trail Atlanta by 2½ games with six to play. Every game, Joe Girardi said last week, is a must-win game right now. So the Phillies should be aggressive and give themselves their best chance to win on Thursday by starting the pitcher who has done nearly everything they’ve asked him to do this season.

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— Matt Breen (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

The rundown

The Phillies’ fading playoff hopes likely depend on a sweep in Atlanta after Sunday’s 6-0 loss to the Pirates.

Phillies’ pitching prospect Hans Crouse lasted three innings in his major-league debut on Sunday as he settled in after allowing a homer on his first pitch.

The Phillies lost Archie Bradley for the rest of the season due to an oblique injury. It’s a significant loss as the team enters the final week of the season with a thin bullpen.

Connor Brogdon could rejoin the Phillies on Tuesday in Atlanta. If so, the bullpen will be happy to have him back.

Scott Lauber has the details on how the deadline deal that proved to be a lifeline for the Phillies’ playoff hopes went down.

Whatever you call Brad Miller, don’t call him a bench player. He’s been much more than that for the Phillies and it starts by him telling himself that he never was one.

Important dates

Today: The Phillies enjoy their final day off this season.

Tomorrow: Zack Wheeler faces Charlie Morton in Game 1 in Atlanta, 7:20 p.m.

Wednesday: Aaron Nola starts vs. Max Fried in Game 2, 7:20 p.m.

Thursday: Kyle Gibson faces Ian Anderson in the series finale, 7:20 p.m.

Friday: Phillies open three-game series in Miami, 7:10 p.m.

Stat of the day

Ranger Suárez has a 1.69 ERA in his 11 starts this season and had a 1.12 ERA in his 27 relief appearances before moving to the rotation. Per Elias, Suárez would be the first major-league pitcher since ERA became an official stat in both leagues to make at least 10 starts and 25 relief appearances in the same season and post an ERA lower than 1.70 in both situations. How valuable is Suárez? He ranks sixth in the majors among all pitchers in win probability added this season at 3.51, trailing only Josh Hader (4.87), Max Scherzer (4.59), Gerrit Cole (3.66), Brandon Woodruff (3.62), and Robbie Ray (3.59).

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: Could the Braves finish the season with just 161 games? I see they have a game on Monday. — Matt P., via email

Answer: Thanks, Matt. Yes, they could. The Braves have a make-up game scheduled for Oct. 4 at home against the Rockies after their game was rained out earlier this month. The only way this game will be played is if the difference in the National League East is a half game after Sunday’s action. If the Braves are ahead by a half-game and then lose to the Rockies, the Phillies and Braves would then play a one-game playoff in South Philly. It’s going to take a lot for that to happen, but it would be a wild way to finish the season.