Harper's torrid stretch continues as Phillies blow out Blue Jays

May 8th, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have the best record in baseball, and hasn’t even been on one of his months-long tears yet.

He might be close. He hit a grand slam in the fourth inning in Tuesday night’s 10-1 victory over the Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park, hitting an 0-2 slurve against Blue Jays right-hander José Berríos into the first row of seats in right field to give the Phillies an 8-0 lead.

“I thought I hit it well enough, but I wasn’t sure,” Harper said.

Harper was batting .234 with six homers, 18 RBIs and an .820 OPS before Sunday. He has three homers and 10 RBIs in three games since. He is the first Phillies player with three-plus homers and 10-plus RBIs in a three-game span since he did it on Aug. 14-16, 2019, when he had four homers and 10 RBIs.

“It’s incredible, it’s amazing,” Phillies left-hander Cristopher Sánchez said. “Being side by side with a superstar like Bryce is an amazing thing.”

Berríos has been one of Toronto’s only bright spots this season. He had allowed only seven runs in his first seven starts this season. He allowed eight runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Phillies.

The Phils are 26-11 (.703). It is a 114-win pace. If it seems everything is going well for them, it mostly is. Look at the rotation: Sánchez allowed one run in seven innings. Spencer Turnbull followed him, pitching in relief for the first time since he got bumped to the bullpen following Taijuan Walker’s return from the injured list.

Turnbull pitched two perfect innings.

“I kind of felt like a baby giraffe out there a little bit,” he said.

Turnbull had a 1.67 ERA in six starts this season, but he is a reliever for now. Tuesday was only the second time he has pitched out of the bullpen in his career. It was his first relief appearance since his rookie season in 2018.

How is it going to work? Turnbull’s plans are fluid. The Phillies said they want to keep him stretched out as much as possible in the event he is needed to start again. They hoped to get him at least three innings on Tuesday. In fact, Turnbull said they told him they planned to have Sánchez go through the lineup only twice.

But Sánchez pitched so efficiently they pushed him into the seventh.

Because Turnbull pitched only two innings, he could pitch again in a few days. If he does, he won’t follow Sánchez the next time he starts. But at some point, Turnbull will need to pitch more than two innings to keep him stretched out.

It needs to happen in the next 10-14 days.

“Definitely different,” Turnbull said about his relief experience. “Definitely going to take a few tries probably to figure out what works, what doesn’t, as far as getting ready. Lot of different changes to the routine for sure. I felt like it was all right. I wouldn’t say I felt great, but I felt like I handled it pretty well.”

Nick Castellanos doubled to score Harper in the first inning to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. He is batting .308 (8-for-26) with two doubles, one homer, four RBIs and an .857 OPS in his last seven games. Kody Clemens ripped a two-run homer to right in the second and tripled to score a run in the fourth.

Clemens has homered in each of the two games he has started this season; he just joined the team this weekend following Trea Turner’s trip to the IL.

“He’s a stud, man,” Harper said. “You look at a lot of the really good teams in the league, they have depth. If that’s starting pitching depth, if that’s infield, hitting or anything. I think a lot of really good teams have it. I think [president of baseball operations Dave] Dombrowski has done a great job of building a roster and making sure we have those pieces and that depth in the Minor Leagues.”

Clemens has used the same bat model as Harper for the past couple years, but he used one of Harper’s actual bats on Tuesday.

He broke it on a groundout in the eighth.

“Bryce, he’s got unlimited bats,” Clemens said. “It’s good that he likes me.”