PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper’s opposite-field, three-run home run in the sixth inning Friday night at Citizens Bank Park could not match the adrenaline rush or emotional high of his walk-off grand slam Thursday.
There is no shame in that. Nothing could beat that moment.
But Harper’s latest blast excited the Phillies in other ways. It not only helped them beat the Padres, 8-4, but it also moved them into a tie with the Cubs for the second National League Wild Card.
Harper has homered four times in his past three games and eight times in his past 13. He is batting .306 with eight home runs, 18 RBIs and a 1.210 OPS in the 13-game stretch. His hot streak coincides with catcher J.T. Realmuto’s torrid run. Realmuto hit a solo home run in the third inning and is batting .362 with nine doubles, six home runs, 19 RBIs and a 1.169 OPS in his past 19 games.
“Oh, that’s my guy,” Harper said. “Everybody knows how I feel about him.”
“Shout out,” Realmuto said.
“He’s doing great for us this year,” Harper continued. “I mean, being able to catch as many games as he has this year, staying in the lineup, even when he’s beat up sometimes, knowing that we need him. For a catcher to possibly play 150 games, that’s pretty incredible.”
Harper, Realmuto and the rest of the Phillies’ lineup have helped the team win four consecutive games for the fifth time this season. The Phillies can extend their winning streak to a season-high five games with a victory Saturday night.
“I think as a lineup, if we can keep going and doing the things we’re doing, we’re going to be a tough team to face down the stretch,” Harper said.
“It's a ton of fun obviously,” Realmuto said. “Not just us two. I feel like the whole lineup is starting to click at the same time. We feel just as confident in our [Nos. 6, 7 and 8] guys right now as we do in the top of the lineup to score runs. Obviously, Bryce has done a ton of damage for us. I've put good swings on the ball, and when we can get things rolling like that early in the game, the rest of the guys can feed off of that. It's definitely been a ton of fun.”
It just might be hitting season, after all.
Phillies fans continued the “Charlie! Charlie!” chants for new hitting coach Charlie Manuel. The Phillies dismissed former hitting coach John Mallee on Tuesday. The team is 4-0 since making the change.
“Of course Charlie's had an impact,” Realmuto said. “Just having him in the dugout, being able to walk by him and him say something as simple as, ‘Hey, stay short.’ He's a guy that everybody in this clubhouse looks up to, so we're definitely glad to have him.”
Fans broke out in “We’ve got Harper!” chants in the eighth inning when Padres third baseman Manny Machado stepped into the batter’s box. The Phillies pursued Machado in the offseason, but he signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres. The Phillies signed Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract a short time later.
Chants for Manuel. Chants for Harper. Walk-off grand slams. Four consecutive wins. Citizens Bank Park has been a fun place to be this week.
“We’re all ecstatic right now,” said Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, who allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innnings.
They want to keep that feeling. To do that, they need to continue to hit, because they might not have enough pitching to match the NL’s best down the stretch. That means contributions from players other than Harper and Realmuto.
Roman Quinn hit a solo homer in the third. He tried to bunt a first-pitch fastball from Padres right-hander Chris Paddack, but he instead popped the ball into foul territory. The Phillies had been telling Quinn that he should not be afraid to bunt for hits. He is batting .462 (6-for-13) when he bunts this season and .500 (9-for-18) when he bunts in his career. But after he popped the ball foul, he changed course. He swung at Paddack’s 0-1 fastball, ripping a solo home run into the second deck in right field.
After batting .093 with one double, two RBIs and a .294 OPS in his first 60 plate appearances this season, Quinn is batting .333 with two doubles, one triple, four home runs, nine RBIs and a 1.039 OPS in his next 62 plate appearances. However, he left the game after grounding out in the eighth inning after he “stretched” his right groin, he said. He does not consider the tightness serious and will know more Saturday.
“J.T. and Harper have been swinging well for a couple of weeks,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We have a lot of other guys with long track records of success. It doesn’t have to be everybody all at once, but I think when we get kind of a smattering of guys up and down the lineup performing, we’re going to score runs and we’re going to score runs regularly. We’re going to beat good pitching like we did tonight and we’re going to be successful against more mediocre starters as well.”