ST. LOUIS -- Bryce Harper needed a breakout game to snap out of his slump. He got it.
Harper smashed a grand slam as part of a 2-for-3 night, in which he reached three times and scored twice to help lead the Phillies to an 11-1 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.
“The past couple of weeks, it’s been the same thing -- swinging at pitches outside the zone, not hitting the pitches in the zone," Harper said. "But on any given night you go out there, and that’s the great thing about baseball: You play each day,” Harper said. “You go out there and try to do the best you can, and hopefully good things will happen.”
Harper sent an 89 mph slider from Dakota Hudson a projected 397 feet, according to Statcast, over the right-field wall to cap a six-run second inning for the Phillies. It was Harper’s fourth career grand slam and his first as a Phillie. His last grand slam came as a member of the Nationals at Atlanta on April 19, 2017.
“Bryce looked a little bit more relaxed,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “Bat flew through the zone. That [slider] obviously for the grand slam, but it was the quality of the at-bats throughout the night. [He] looked more at ease. Looked like he was letting it go and that was the difference.”
It was Harper’s seventh homer of the season, and his first since April 26. Harper entered the contest just 7-for-53 in 15 games since his career-high five-hit night in Colorado on April 19. His average dropped from .296 to .226 during that span. Tuesday marked his first multi-hit game since April 19.
Kapler was not concerned about the slugger’s struggles given Harper's track record.
“Knowing that he went through [a stretch] similar in 2015 and he ended up winning the MVP Award tells me how resilient he is,” Kapler said. “Watching him go through it here, he never changes his work, shows up day in and day out. On a night like tonight, still busted down the line on a ball that he didn’t need to do that on, and he brings the highest work ethic and intensity on a nightly basis. He has earned the respect of everybody under this roof.”
Harper has now hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games against the Cardinals dating to July 1, 2017. He is hitting .439 (18-for-41) with six homers, five doubles and 19 RBIs during that stretch.
“I think anytime you come in and face anybody, you just try to go in there and have the best game you can,” Harper said. “You just try to be a good baseball player and that’s about it. You don’t really think about who you’re facing or anything like that. Just try to go out there and play the best I can.”
All six runs allowed by Hudson in the second inning were unearned, thanks to two throwing errors earlier in the frame. The first came after Kapler challenged what was originally ruled a forceout at second. After a one-minute, 20-second review, the replay determined that Kolten Wong’s throw drew Paul DeJong off of the second-base bag, allowing Cesar Hernandez to reach safely. Hernandez later scored on a Paul Goldschmidt throwing error, making it 2-0 before Harper’s blast cleared the bases.
“That’s by far the worst inning [of the season] and clearly uncharacteristic,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. “I want to apologize for it. No excuses on our end. Not to take anything away from Philadelphia. They clearly played a nice game. But that was a definition of us beating ourselves. We lost to ourselves today.”
On the mound, Aaron Nola continued his strong pitching, allowing just one run on three hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
Nola has a 2.25 ERA with 26 strikeouts in his last four starts.
“It was definitely the best I’ve felt all year with all my pitches,” Nola said. “I was throwing quality pitches and, as the game went on, I was getting ahead more, I was getting first-pitch strikes more.”
“I think our whole lineup, one throught eight, and sometimes even our pitcher, like tonight -- I think as a team, we go out there each night knowing that if one guy doesn’t get it done, another guy is going to get it done,” Harper said.