PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson says No. 5 starter Taijuan Walker will remain in the rotation ahead of surprise free-agent success story Spencer Turnbull as the team chases an NL East title.

The Phillies entered Tuesday’s game with Milwaukee with the best record in the National League and tied with the New York Yankees for best in baseball at 42-19.

Anchored by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, the rotation has been among the strongest in baseball. The Phillies led MLB in ERA (2.71), innings pitched (362 1/3 innings) and strikeout rate (24.9%) ahead of the Brewers game.

The 31-year-old Walker has been the only sore point. The right-hander is in the second year of a four-year, $72-million contract and is 3-1 with a 5.73 ERA in seven starts. He has not pitched into the seventh inning of any of his last five starts.

Walker — who won 15 games a year ago but did not pitch in the postseason as the Phillies reached the NL Championship Series — allowed four runs in five inning and took a no-decision in the Phillies’ extra-inning loss to St. Louis.

“Obviously, the team is playing so well right now and I just want to be a part of that,” Walker said on Sunday. “I’m just not doing my part right now.”

Phillies fans chanted for Turnbull —- who shined in six starts earlier this season while Walker was out with a right shoulder injury — and has since been sent to the bullpen.

Thomson said before Tuesday’s game the Phillies are “not there yet” when it comes to yanking Walker from his spot in the rotation.

“Why not? Because I trust him,” Thomson said.

Turnbull overall is 3-0 with a 2.64 ERA in 13 games. Turnbull can earn $2 million in performance bonuses for starts and innings as part of his $2 million, one-year contract.

Turnbull was 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA in seven starts for Detroit last year. He pitched a no-hitter at Seattle on May 18, 2021, his only complete game in 60 major league starts. He took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning this season in an April start.

Walker starts for the Phillies on Sunday against the New York Mets in London.

“He’s got to command better,” Thomson said. “Hopefully, along the way, he gains some velo. We saw it tick up a couple of starts ago and now it’s come back down. I’m sure he’ll get there. But he’s got to command the baseball, he’s got to keep it down, he’s got to get the split down.”

___

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb