The number of days until the Eastern League All-Star Game is dropping and so is Ranger Suarez's ERA.
Philadelphia's No. 9 prospect continued his June surge with seven scoreless innings, scattering five hits as Double-A Reading rolled over New Hampshire, 8-1, on Sunday at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. He struck out two and walked one.
Video: Suarez gets double play for Reading
The Eastern League hasn't released rosters for its showcase game on July 11 in Trenton, but over the past month, Suarez has pitched like an All-Star -- though he might not have been feeling like one on Sunday. Through four June starts entering the series finale, Suarez sported a 1.33 ERA, allowing just four earned runs in 27 innings. Against the Fisher Cats, the southpaw improved those numbers.
"[His approach] is to attack hitters early in the count and make the hitters hit the first two or three pitches," Fightin Phils pitching coach Steve Schrenk said. "He's always been able to keep that pitch count down. Today he probably went a little bit longer than [we expected]. He wasn't feeling very good, feeling a little bit under the weather. I was proud of him today for just pitching not feeling great."
Suarez pitched just one clean inning, retiring the side in order in the sixth, but allowed only one runner past second base on the afternoon. The 22-year-old surrendered a one-out single to Juan Kelly in the seventh, but got Andrew Guillotte to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to cap his day.
Gameday box score
"I think he started throwing his off-speed a little bit early in the count, getting them out front, get some early swings," Schrenk said. "I think he had a four-pitch inning, an 11-pitch inning. He was getting them out early, getting them out front. He established his fastball early and was doing a good job with off-speed later in the game."
Suarez finished his day throwing 57 of 87 pitches for strikes and getting 12 outs on the ground with four in the air.
"He's been taking a little bit of a different approach as far as command of his fastball," the coach said. "His slider has improved from where it was even last year. Just really the ability to go out there and have three pitches and command all three of them has been pretty much it for him. He'll get his strikeouts when he gets them, but it's a lot of early contact, keep his pitch count down, be able to throw long in the game for us."
Through five June starts, Suarez has amassed a 1.06 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and a .219 opponents' average. Over 34 innings, he's allowed 25 hits and nine walks while dropping his ERA for the season to 2.76 through 12 games.
"That's what we're looking for is consistency, and he's definitely shown that," Schrenk said. "He's definitely, I'm sure, opening eyes in the organization, a left-handed pitcher doing well. He's continuing the success that he had from last year, so it's a good thing for him. I know his confidence right now is huge.
"Every pitch that he threw today, I was pretty much on the same page with him. It was a good day. It's just been getting better and better every start."
Reading leadoff hitter Jiandido Tromp led the way at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs.
Toronto's No. 27 prospect Jordan Romano was roughed up for seven runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings.