August 15, 2022

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With Harper at DH, Phils are starting to click

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PHILADELPHIA — Bryce Harper put on his knit cap and jacket shortly after scoring an insurance run in the seventh inning Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

It felt like 39 degrees by then.

It was not baseball weather. Far from it. But Harper was playing and he was helping the Phillies beat the Rockies, 7-3. If this were any other season in National League history — save the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign — Harper would have been wearing a cap and jacket in the dugout the entire game as a player on the 10-day injured list. But because Major League Baseball brought the DH to the NL this year, Harper has continued to hit in the middle of Philadelphia’s lineup, even with the mild strain in his right elbow that has prevented him from playing right field since April 16.

Harper tested the elbow again on Wednesday. It still feels achy, so he will not throw again until next Tuesday and will be the Phillies’ DH for the foreseeable future.

The role agrees with Harper. He batted .156 (5-for-32) with one home run, seven RBIs and a .644 OPS in nine games through April 16. He is batting .366 (15-for-41) with two home runs, six RBIs and a 1.106 OPS in 10 games since he became the full-time DH. He went 3-for-4 with one triple and two runs scored on Wednesday.

“I’m trying not to miss pitches in the zone,” Harper said. “I think that’s what I’ve been doing lately. I think there are times when I’ve missed pitches in the zone and have been chasing out of my zone. I’ve just been trying to hone it back in. Try to get things going again. Get the hits that come in bunches and get on base as much as I can for the guys behind me. I think as a lineup now these last three days we’ve done a great job of getting the starters out early and making it tough for the bullpen guys as well.”

The Phillies’ offense is showing its talent and depth these days.

Manager Joe Girardi gave Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto the night off. Segura has been the Phils’ leadoff hitter for the past week, so Girardi hit Odúbel Herrera first. Herrera hit a leadoff homer to right in the first. He had a sacrifice fly in the second to give Philadelphia a 2-0 lead.

Realmuto had started 10 consecutive games until Garrett Stubbs got behind the plate on Wednesday. Stubbs hit ninth. He hit a bloop single to center in the second, which put Johan Camargo on third for Herrera’s sacrifice fly. Stubbs hit his first big league triple in the sixth to score an insurance run to make it 5-3.

“It seems like our lineup is clicking pretty well right now, which is what we expected,” Stubbs said. “We’re kind of at the end where Spring Training would be if we had a full Spring Training. To see the guys click in the lineup, one through nine, if we can score runs, we’re going to have a really good season. I expect that to be what we see.”

The Phillies have been getting pretty good pitching in this 5-2 stretch, too. Ranger Suárez allowed three runs in six innings. The bullpen pitched three scoreless. Seranthony Domínguez replaced José Alvarado with two on and one out in the seventh. He got an inning-ending double play. Brad Hand replaced Jeurys Famila with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth. He struck out Ryan McMahon looking.

“We’re definitely playing better baseball all around,” Hand said. “We knew we had a good team going into the season. Sometimes it just takes a minute to get things going.”

The Phillies have a chance to sweep the four-game series with a victory on Thursday. A win would move the Phils (9-10) to .500 for the first time since April 13.

“We’re only [19] games in,” Harper said. “We’ve got to go at some point. We’ve got to win games. There are teams in our division that are really good. We’ve got to get going and keep playing the way that we are right now. Look forward to hopefully getting a sweep tomorrow and getting into New York and playing a tough Mets team.”

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