PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper could not have hit two balls more perfectly than the ones he hit in the first and fourth innings on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Both died on the warning track.
“I came to the Bank to hit homers and it’s just not happening,” Harper said with a chuckle following the Phillies’ 9-2 victory over the Cardinals. “That wind is brutal.”
The wind ruined Harper’s shot at two home runs, but it keyed a six-run rally in the second inning in which nine consecutive Phillies reached base via hit, walk or hit by pitch. It was the first time that happened since May 2, 2010, against the Mets. The Phils needed it.
They went 1-5 on a road trip through Atlanta and New York. It could have been worse, but rain postponed Thursday’s series finale against the Mets at Citi Field, where they were supposed to face Jacob deGrom.
“I think that just goes to show how good the [National League] East really is,” Harper said. “I’m not taking anything away from the Central or anything like that or anyone else in baseball, but there’s such good pitching all around. And the Cardinals got great pitching. All of baseball has great pitching.
"But being able to come out here and do the things that we were able to do tonight, just put the ball in play, have fun, enjoy what we were doing, it’s a great game, it’s a lot of fun to play. Our lineup, when we’re hitting on all cylinders, is a lot of fun to watch.”
Alec Bohm hit a ground ball to shortstop Paul DeJong with one out in the second, but DeJong lost his footing and could not make the throw to first. Didi Gregorius hit a ground ball to second baseman Matt Carpenter, who knocked it into right field to put runners at the corners. Jean Segura followed with a routine fly ball to center fielder Dylan Carlson, but the ball fell several feet in front of him to score the game’s first run.
Carlson said afterward that he lost the ball in the twilight and wind.
Mickey Moniak was intentionally walked to load the bases. Zach Eflin, who allowed two runs in seven-plus innings, got hit by a pitch to score another run. He became the first Phillies pitcher since Gene Conley on May 15, 1960, to earn an RBI by getting hit with a pitch with the bases loaded.
Andrew McCutchen’s single to right scored two more runs. Harper’s double to right scored two more to give the Phillies a 6-0 lead.
Innings like this did not happen on the road. They haven’t happened much this season. The Phils entered the game batting .235 with a .665 OPS and averaging just 3.5 runs per game. They batted .257 with a .781 OPS and 5.1 runs per game last season.
The Phillies believe it will turn. Harper is key. He hit his double 103.1 mph, according to Statcast. It was the weakest contact he made on the three balls he put in play. He crushed a pitch 109 mph on his flyout to the warning track (caught by Tommy Edman at the wall) in right in the first. The ball had an expected batting average of .980. He crushed a pitch 108 mph on his flyout to the warning track in left-center field in the fourth. That ball had an expected batting average of .990.
Since Statcast began tracking exit velocity in 2015, Harper has had only one game in which he hit more balls in play harder than he hit on Friday. He hit four 103.1 mph or better on April 19, 2019.
“I feel good,” Harper said. “I have felt good in the box. It’s just getting pitches over the plate to do damage with and then take my walks. I really liked my last at-bat actually [a walk in the seventh], some close pitches there that I didn’t swing at. I need to get back into that rhythm of taking pitches, hitting the ones over the plate.
“These last couple series, I know I could have walked 10 to 11 times easily, but I just wasn’t doing that. I need to get back into that, doing damage over the plate and having better at-bats, seeing pitches and getting on base by walking, and not just by hits all the time.”
Phillies manager Joe Girardi loved Harper’s at-bats, too. He loved the fact that his entire lineup put the ball in play.
Good things happened.
He hopes it continues. He believes Harper’s luck will improve, too.
“The weather will change,” Girardi said.