What slump? Harper caps 3-homer night with a grand slam

April 3rd, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- has a fantastic baseball memory. It should surprise nobody that he remembers everything about the first time he homered three times in a game.

He hit three against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler on May 6, 2015, at Nationals Park. He remembers J.T. Realmuto behind the plate. He remembers the first homer sailing over Ichiro Suzuki’s head in left field and landing in the bullpen. He remembers the next two clearing the fence in right. So, knowing that he remembers everything about that game nine years ago, what does he think he will remember from Tuesday night’s three-home run performance in a 9-4 victory over the Reds at Citizens Bank Park?

“Hopefully, this is the start of us winning one,” Harper said. “You know? It’d be cool.”

Seven months from now, maybe everybody will look back and say this is the night that sparked the Phillies to a World Series championship.

“I do remember he went to win the MVP that year,” Realmuto said. “That's a good sign for Bryce this year.”

Harper is the first Phillies player to hit three homers in a game since Brad Miller on July 8, 2021, at Wrigley Field. He is the first Phillies player to hit three homers in a game, including a grand slam, since Jayson Werth on May 16, 2008, at Citizens Bank Park, who is the only other Phillie to do it.

Harper never started a season with more than five at-bats without a hit, until this year. He stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning against Reds right-hander Graham Ashcraft hitless in his 11 at-bats. But Harper smashed a 1-2 sinker at 107.7 mph for a solo homer to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. The ball sailed 420 feet and landed just to the left of the batter’s eye in center field.

“I’ve actually felt really good,” Harper said. “Obviously, it’s not the results you want. I thought I had some pretty good swings in the Atlanta series, and pretty good swings yesterday as well. I’m just trying to build that up and keep this going.”

Harper smacked a first-pitch slider in the fourth to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. It sailed like a missile at 103.3 mph into the third row of seats in right. It was the 1,000th run scored of his career.

Harper hit a rocket to right-center in the sixth, but Reds center fielder Will Benson made a nice catch to rob him of an extra-base hit.

“You have two, you want three,” he said. “You have three, you want four. Right? That’s the mindset.”

The Phillies loaded the bases in the seventh for Harper, who was hitless in four career at-bats against left-hander Brent Suter.

“He has my number, usually,” Harper said.

He crushed a 3-2 sinker for a grand slam to right-center field.

Harper made Tuesday a memorable night for everybody who braved the cold, windy and rainy conditions. It was so bad that Harper wore a red gaiter over his head throughout most of the game. Others did, too.

“Golfing in that weather for you guys probably wouldn’t be very fun, right?” Harper said. “Kind of the same thing for us. It’s not the greatest.”

The Phillies managed. Spencer Turnbull struck out seven and allowed one unearned run in five innings in his Phillies debut. Ricardo Pinto, who signed as an amateur free agent with the Phillies in 2011, pitched the final four innings to get the save. It was his first appearance in the big leagues since Sept. 1, 2019, and his first for the Phillies since Sept. 21, 2017.

Pinto woke up Tuesday in Rochester, N.Y. The Phillies needed him because they needed a fresh arm. He couldn’t get a flight, so the Phillies got him a car for the 5 1/2-hour trek. The drive took longer because of traffic, and Pinto got to the ballpark around 7:15 p.m. ET, more than a half-hour after first pitch.

Pinto said he missed Harper’s first home run. He saw the other two.

“Yesterday, [Harper] ends up striking out to end the game,” Garrett Stubbs said. “Before that at-bat, I went up to Whit [Merrifield] because it was a big spot. I was like, ‘Man, you’re going to want to watch this.’ Obviously, it didn’t work out. It doesn’t always work out. But it damn near feels like it always works out. And so for him to go out there and hit three homers in a game, yes, I’m incredibly impressed. But it feels like he does stuff like that all the time.”