Harper continues torrid stretch in 10-inning slugfest

2 years ago

LOS ANGELES — Medical reports say Bryce Harper is injured. But watching his recent at-bats, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

On Friday at Dodger Stadium, a day after being diagnosed with a small UCL tear in his right elbow, Harper maintained his torrid hitting pace — going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a home run in the Phillies’ 12-10 win in 10 innings.

Even when he wasn’t given a chance to hit, as was the case in the top of the 10th, he was in the middle of things. The Dodgers walked Harper intentionally with one out and a runner on third, but he soon came around to score on Nick Castellanos’ two-run double down the left-field line, which broke the 9-9 tie.

In spite of myraid bullpen flaws and countless anxious moments, the Phillies have taken the first two of a four-game set against a National League power and are 4-1 on their road trip with 38 runs scored.

“We just have to come out here tomorrow and do the same thing,” Harper said. “We can’t lay down or anything like that. That’s a great team over there.”

If they do the same thing, the Phillies will win their first series in Los Angeles since April 2014.

Since May 5, a span of eight games, Harper has hit .469 with 10 extra-base hits — increasing his league lead in that category to 22. He has five in this series.

Walker Beuhler, given the starting nod when Clayton Kershaw was placed on the injured list, got Harper to ground out in the first. It was the last time any Dodgers pitcher retired the two-time MVP.

Harper, who came into Friday’s contest fifth in the NL in slugging at .553, doubled to the opposite field in the third inning. He drew a walk in the fourth. In the sixth, he turned on an Evan Phillips pitch for another two-base hit to score Bryson Stott. His fifth plate appearance resulted in a home run to right field off Phil Bickford, number eight on the year.

A few weeks back, manager Joe Girardi said, “Thank God for the DH.” These last two days have given him more reasons to show appreciation to the heavens.

There are obvious repercussions with Harper’s throwing restriction, specifically when it comes to the Phillies’ defensive alignment and a potential worsening of the injury. But the reigning NL MVP has more than made up for whatever limitations it may bring. In the time since he’s been reduced to a DH role beginning on April 17, Harper has an OPS over .967.

The eighth-inning home run seemed to be the necessary insurance for a bullpen that, up to that point, was protecting the lead.

But two outs from victory, up 9-7, Jeurys Familia surrendered a two-run homer to Justin Turner.

The Phillies didn’t waste time responding. When Castellanos scored after stealing third and advancing home on Austin Barnes’ errant throw, Philadelphia had its 12th run of the game and its 21st in two nights against a team with the NL’s best ERA.

“We think we have a pretty good offense,” manager Joe Girardi said. “At times we’ve struggled this year, but we’ve seemed to get it going a little bit on this road trip.”

Stott reached base in each of his five plate appearances, driving in three runs, and scoring twice. He was one of six Phillies to tally at least two hits. Kyle Schwarber had the most impressive — a missle to right field at a 113.8 exit velocity and a distance of 430 feet.

“We knew we were going to have some guys that really needed to step up tonight and a lot of guys did,” Girardi said.

All this took the burden off starter Kyle Gibson, who is happy to leave Los Angeles without a loss. He has faced L.A. four times. In each start, he’s allowed at least five runs. The Dodgers reached that magic number in the third inning alone. Gibson gave up six runs in all and couldn’t escape the fourth. After several quality starts to begin the season, his ERA ballooned to 4.10.

“Sometimes when you get out there your stuff kind of clicks and your delivery comes together and you can lock it in,” Gibson said. “And sometimes it goes like [tonight did]. Even when I did execute a good pitch they were putting good swings on it.”