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Harper keeps Kapler from getting sweep in return to Philly

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You don't have to dive too deep into an alternate reality to picture how the Giants could have flown into Philadelphia this weekend with Bryce Harper in the middle of their lineup and Gabe Kapler waiting on the other side.

Harper chose the Phillies over the Giants a little more than two years ago, and that decision dramatically raised the expectations for an organization that gave Kapler just two years to reach them. 

Instead, it was Kapler who walked into Citizens Bank Park this week looking for old friends and rehashing old memories. He almost strolled out with what would have been a very, very satisfying sweep, too, but Harper, his former star, got in the way.

The Giants basically couldn't get Harper out for three days, and on Wednesday, that finally led to a loss. Harper's homer tied the game a few minutes after a dramatic Giants rally, and he scored the winning run in the ninth. The 6-5 loss kept the Giants from getting a sweep in Kapler's return and from climbing six games above .500 for the first time in five seasons. 

Kapler was somewhat okay with the 3-3 road trip, but he wanted more. He noted that the Giants seemed to find their stride offensively, but they were also sloppy at times Wednesday and got a second straight lackluster start. 

"I think there's better baseball in us," Kapler said. "I'm never going to be satisfied with going 3-3 on a road trip. I'm pleased that we won this series and look forward to getting home and taking on Miami and I think there's some good things that happened, but I'm not going to cheer too loudly for a 3-3 trip."


The Giants lost the first two games in Miami, but they looked poised to take a fourth straight when Darin Ruf hit a loud pinch-hit, three-run homer to center in the seventh, tying the game. Andrew McCutchen's fielding error allowed the Giants to take the lead, but Harper gave rookie Camilo Doval an ERA by lining a slider out to right-center at 110 mph. He led off the ninth with a walk and came around on two singles. 

In three games this week, Harper reached base 10 times in 14 plate appearances. He has faced the Giants 10 times since passing up their $310 million offer and is 11-for-32 with 13 walks and three homers. 

"When Bryce Harper is at his best and when he's swinging the bat well, he's a very, very difficult out," Kapler said. "He's laying off pitches that he can't put in the seats like he did with one today. Then you just kinda have to throw him strikes and you've got to throw him strikes quickly, and sometimes you're going to get punished for that, but when he's swinging the bat that good there's no other way to do it because he'll work a deep count and the results will be similar. 

"You may as well take your chances and see if you can get him to put the ball in play early and mishit something. He swung the bat great in this series."

Kapler's new team did, too, scoring 17 runs in the three-game series. But the starting staff wobbled a bit, the bullpen was short in the finale with Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee (overuse) off, and the Giants finished the trip with a rough day defensively and on the bases. 

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"I thought we swung the bats well and we stayed pretty relentless with our approach at the plate -- I was proud of that," Kapler said. "I think we had some leadoff walks (by pitchers) that hurt us and I think we have a better defensive effort in us, generally speaking than that. In order to win those really tight games you've got to play good D and pick up your pitchers, and our pitchers just didn't have their best, across the board."