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Cool as Cliff Lee: Ranger Suárez delivers for Phillies in his own iconic World Series moment

Inspired by his offense scoring three runs, Rob Thomson chose to be aggressive, and that included turning to his Game 3 starter.

Ranger Suárez got two key outs in the seventh and eighth innings of Game 1 on Friday.
Ranger Suárez got two key outs in the seventh and eighth innings of Game 1 on Friday.Read moreHeather Khalifa / Staff Photographer

HOUSTON — Rhys Hoskins waited Friday night at first base, his glove ready to secure the first out of the eighth inning as the ballpark buzzed.

And then he waited. And waited. And waited.

Ranger Suárez tossed the ball into the air, grabbed it with his left hand, looked at it as if he was studying the World Series logo on the sweet spot, and glanced toward first base.

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“Come on, Ranger,” Hoskins said he thought. “Throw it. Throw it.”

This was the eighth inning of the first game of the World Series against the heart of the Astros lineup. The game was tied, the stakes were high, and the pressure was tense. But Suárez acted the way he always does, treating the grounder in a 6-5 win as if it was a game in June.

Suárez finally threw it to first base, and the Phillies were an out closer to an opening statement.

“He might not know it’s the World Series,” Alec Bohm said. “Ranger is the calmest guy I’ve ever played with, really. It doesn’t matter the situation.”

“That’s just Ranger, man,” Zach Eflin said. “That’s just what he does. I think I saw him do that stuff in the minor leagues. He’s as cool as a cucumber.”

Suárez is scheduled to start Game 3 on Monday but Rob Thomson was determined Friday to leave with a win. He used José Alvardo in the fifth inning and had four relievers — Alvarado, Suárez, Eflin, and Seranthony Domínguez — pitch in more than one inning.

Thomson, inspired by his offense scoring three runs after falling into a five-run hole, chose to be aggressive. They told Suárez earlier in the day that he might be needed. And there he was walking to the bullpen in the third inning.

“When he was coming out, I was thinking ‘Oh, man. That’s our Game 4 starter,’” Bryce Harper said. “But that’s Ranger. His demeanor is so good. He’s so calm in everything he does, and it’s so fun to watch.”

Suárez still could be available to start Monday — “Even tomorrow if they need me,” he cracked — as Friday was his scheduled day to throw a side session in preparation for his rotation turn. He instead threw 11 pitches to three batters, and Thomson said they’ll check with him on Saturday.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck type of thing,” Hoskins said. “Follow the leader. Thomson is telling us that we have a good chance to win this game, and everyone is available to do their part. It’s huge.”

» READ MORE: The Phillies, America’s team, win Game 1 with J.T. Realmuto’s hits and Rob Thomson’s guts

The way Suárez casually fielded the grounder and threw it to Hoskins was reminiscent of the way Cliff Lee nonchalantly caught a pop fly in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, which happened 13 years to the day of Friday’s win.

“I always do it,” Suárez said of taking his time to throw to first. “It’s a habit of mine.”

But even in the World Series?

“Honestly, the only difference is that it’s the World Series. Like the name is different,” Suárez said. “But it’s the same game. I just go out there, have fun, and try to get my job done.”

Suárez started Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, came out of relief for the first time this season two days later to record the final two outs of the pennant clincher, and picked up two late-inning outs of the World Series opener. The last week has been like last season when Suárez filled every role from long reliever to closer to starter.

“He has ice in his veins, man,” Eflin said. “You can’t teach that. It doesn’t matter how many pitching coaches you go to, however many pitching gurus you go to. You can’t teach that.”

Suárez did not make an error this season, and his nine defensive runs saved led all pitchers. He matches his coolness on the mound with a smooth glove. He was named Friday as the best defensive pitcher by Fielding Bible. Bohm said Suárez is “the best fielding pitcher I’ve ever seen.”

But the left-hander fell 11 innings shy of the threshold — 138 innings in his team’s first 138 games — needed to qualify for the Gold Glove Award.

» READ MORE: Pressure? In the playoffs? Not for these Phillies, who conquered the bigger stress of getting here.

“It’s a travesty that he’s not a Gold Glover,” Harper said. “He’s the best defender in the league, and it’s not even close, especially pitching-wise. It’s terrible that he’s not going to get the opportunity to wear a Gold Glove.”

Suárez said he would love to win a Gold Glove but would rather take a World Series ring. His willingness to pitch Friday knowing that might start on Monday helped the Phillies get the first of four wins needed for that to happen. He made it look cool. Even in the World Series.

“Why change? That’s who he is,” Hoskins said. “Be yourself.”