Harper's 2nd HR causes stir, caps Phils' sweep

April 1st, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- ’s first series with the Phillies lived up to almost every expectation imaginable.

It could get even better this week in Washington.

Harper homered twice against the Braves, including a towering solo home run in the seventh inning of Sunday night’s 5-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park. He played to the crowd with a pair of Phanatic cleats on Opening Day. He bowed to fans in right field. He got standing ovations. He heard “MVP!” chants. He got a curtain call. But most important, Harper helped the reborn Phillies sweep their season-opening series against a division rival to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2011, when Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt helped them sweep the Astros.

The Phillies are the only undefeated team in baseball. If they win on Tuesday against the Nationals, they will be 4-0 for the first time since 1915.

“It’s been great,” Harper said. “The fans showed up for us each night, especially when it’s cold out tonight, they still showed up. That what it’s all about. They grind with you all year long. They expect us to play good baseball, and we expect ourselves to play good baseball."

The Phillies entered this season with high expectations following the acquisitions of Harper, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and David Robertson. McCutchen homered on his first swing for the Phillies on Opening Day, and he hit a game-tying home run in the third inning on Sunday. Realmuto homered on Saturday, and his sacrifice fly in the fifth inning on Sunday handed the Phillies a two-run lead. Segura caused havoc on the bases on Opening Day and was hit by a pitch and scored in the fifth on Sunday.

“It’s going to be fun,” Rhys Hoskins said about the season. “It’s really going to be fun.”

It should get more intense, too.

After Harper smashed a home run 398 feet in the fifth, Braves right-hander Shane Carle drilled Hoskins on the left shoulder with an 0-1 fastball and was immediately ejected. It was the third time this series that Hoskins hit the dirt, and he had been knocked down in Spring Training, too. He broke his jaw last season when he fouled a ball off his face and has worn a protective shield over his jaw since.

Hoskins eventually got up and said a few things to Carle, things he said he could not repeat.

“I don’t know if there was intent behind it,” Hoskins said. “Given the situation of the game, it doesn’t seem that there was, but you never know.”

Manager Gabe Kapler offered Hoskins his support.

“It really [makes me angry] when balls go underneath Rhys Hoskins' chin,” Kapler said. “Really bugs me.”

Pitchers had trouble gripping the ball on Sunday night because of the cold and wind, with the Phillies and Braves combining for 15 walks and three hit batters. Both Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta and Harper said they did not think Carle threw intentionally at Hoskins, and Braves manager Brian Snitker and catcher Brian McCann said the same.

But even if both parties do not think Carle hit Hoskins on purpose, it will be remembered.

“I do know that we play these guys a lot more times,” Hoskins said.

Sixteen times, in fact.

The first three meetings could not have gone better for the Phillies.

“I think it sets the tone for the season,” Arrieta said.

Arrieta grinds out six innings

Arrieta battled through six innings in the cold and wind. He walked six and struck out six, allowing one run on three hits. It was just the fifth time in his career that he walked six or more batters.

“The moral of tonight was that it was tough for everybody out there on the hill,” Arrieta said. “Throwing strikes for me was tough with my secondary stuff, even my sinker at times. The ball was moving all over the place. The wind was moving one way, and I’m trying to throw the ball in a certain spot and I’m having a tough job doing that. I was able to grind out the outing tonight and keep my team in the game.”

Arrieta’s most memorable moment came in the fifth, when he fouled off six pitches in an 11-pitch at-bat before lining out to Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte. The lengthy at-bat preceded a two-run rally that let the Phillies take a 3-1 lead.

“I had six walks, so it was nice to see them cheering for me at least a little bit,” Arrieta said. “It was cool. It’s one of those fun things were you get locked in and try to put a good swing on it.”

Walk, walk, walk

The Phillies walked nine times on Sunday and 20 times overall in the series. They are 6-for-15 with three home runs, 13 RBIs, three walks, one hits batsman and one sacrifice fly in plate appearances following walks.

Packed house

Phillies fans are clearly digging their team. Philadelphia announced that a combined 130,476 fans attended the three-game series at the Bank. That's their highest total attendance through the first three games at the Bank to start a season since 2012 (135,684).