'It starts tonight': Phils must roll into Deadline

July 24th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Girardi said a couple times that the Phillies needed ’s best on Friday.

He got it.

He got ’s best, too. The Phillies beat the Braves at Citizens Bank Park, 5-1, to snap a three-game skid at a critical point in the season. They are trying to convince the front office to make upgrades before the July 30 Trade Deadline. Friday’s victory moved the Phils (48-48) back to .500 and kept them four games behind the Mets in the National League East.

The Mets acquired Rich Hill from the Rays on Friday to bolster their rotation.

Will the Phillies follow suit?

“We’ve got to win,” Wheeler said. “We’ve got to win to make those moves. Hopefully, it starts tonight. We’ve been playing well. New York [this week] obviously was not good, but we’ve been playing well up until then. We’ve got to start winning some games for them to have faith in us and make those types of moves. Hopefully we can continue to do that.”

Wheeler allowed one run in seven innings, striking out eight and walking two in another performance to strengthen his Cy Young candidacy. He is 8-5 with a 2.37 ERA in 20 starts, and 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA in four starts against the Braves.

“He’s tough, man,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “You've got to hope you throw up some zeros facing him, really, and kind of just grind away at-bats. He's good. Man, he's a tough ride."

J.T. Realmuto’s solo homer in the first staked the Phillies to a 1-0 lead. Jean Segura’s double off the third-base bag in the fourth scored two runs to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead.

Harper set a career-high with three stolen bases. He walked and stole third in the first and turned a single into a hustle double in the third. He singled, stole second and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice in the fifth. Braves left-hander Max Fried almost caught Rhys Hoskins stealing after a pickoff throw to first, but Freddie Freeman’s throw to Ozzie Albies at second pulled Albies away from the bag. Harper broke for home as soon as Freeman released the ball. Albies did not have much on his throw to the plate.

Harper scored standing up, giving the Phillies a 4-1 lead. He was the first Phillies player to steal second, third and home in a game since Jayson Werth on May 12, 2009, against the Dodgers. Pete Rose (May 11, 1980, at Cincinnati) and Larry Bowa (Aug. 28, 1970, vs. Atlanta) are the only other Phillies to do it in the last 60 years.

Harper stole home only once previously in his career: May 6, 2012. It was just the eighth game of his big league career.

Does he remember it?

“Don’t we all?” Harper said laughing.

Of course. Former Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels drilled Harper with a first-pitch fastball with two outs in the bottom of the first inning at Nationals Park. Harper reached third on a single from Werth, then stole home when Hamels made a throw to first.

Hamels admitted afterward that he intentionally drilled the rookie with a pitch. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo called Hamels “fake tough,” among other things, the next day. Hunter Pence later made “Fake Tough” T-shirts that Phillies players wore in the clubhouse.

“It was pretty much the same play,” Harper said. “Right as [Hamels] came up, go. This one was more, once Freddie breaks, go.”

Hamels is a free agent and the Phillies need pitching help. They watched Hamels throw last Friday in Texas. It is unclear how interested they are in signing him.

How would Harper feel about possibly being teammates with Hamels?

“Cole is one of the best ever to do it in a Phillies uniform, of course,” Harper said. “I have a lot of respect for him and the way he went about it in his whole career. Any team that gets him is definitely going to be really good. Everybody has seen him in the postseason and what he’s been able to do in his whole career.”

If not Hamels, though, the Phillies need somebody. A night like Friday could strengthen their case.

“We needed that game bad,” Girardi said.