Phillies

Phillies

CINCINNATI — The Phillies have 25 games left in the season. They need a bucket load of things to go right to snap a seven-year playoff drought. One of the things the Phils need most is for Bryce Harper’s next 25 games to be as good as his last 25.

Harper drove in his 28th run in 25 games in helping the Phillies surge past the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, on Tuesday night (see takeaways). The RBI, which came on a base hit to right field in the fifth inning, gave Harper 100 for the second straight season and second time in his career.

He reached the plateau on the day after he clubbed his 30th homer. He has 12 homers in his last 25 games.

“On a night when Harper drove in his 100th run, everybody contributed and I think that’s really important,” manager Gabe Kapler said after the win. “It was a real team victory on a night when Bryce had a personal accolade.

“And I’ll say this, 30 homers and 100 RBIs is a huge accomplishment. As a kid, it’s what every hitter dreams about. ‘Can I get to 30 and 100?’ Regardless of how much it means to him, I think it means a lot to his teammates.”

Harper is the first Phillie since Ryan Howard in 2011 to reach 30 homers and 100 RBIs. He is the first Phillies outfielder to do it since Pat Burrell in 2005.

 

To some in this era of analytics, big data and new perspectives, RBIs are not as sexy as they used to be.

But the game is still about runs — scoring them and preventing them — so don’t let anyone fool you: RBIs still matter.

“I think it’s a really valuable stat,” Kapler said. “It says that when you have an opportunity — the only way you can do it is if you have the opportunity — but when you have the opportunity, you drive the ball in the gaps or in the seats and you score runs. He’s also gotten it done with a ground ball here or a fly ball there. He has a knack for putting the ball in play with runners on base.”

Reaching 100 RBIs clearly meant something to Harper. He kept the ball as a souvenir. He had a career-high 100 RBIs with the Nationals last season. His will blow past that over the final month of the season.

“I think RBIs come with a good team, getting on base and things like that,” he said. “It’s Sept. 3, so we’ve got a long ways to go. It’s just a steppingstone to something else, hopefully. We’ve just got to keep going.”

Harper’s use of the word steppingstone was a reference to the big picture. The Phillies are 2½ games out in the NL wild-card chase (see standings). They have won three in a row and have Aaron Nola on the mound Wednesday night.

“It’s fun,” Harper said. “That’s what September baseball is. The weather changes, the leaves change, things like that. Good baseball ahead of us. We’ve got some good teams we’re going to play down the stretch. Hopefully tomorrow and the next day we can take care of business.”

While Harper was the headline grabber with his 100th RBI, he was not the star of Tuesday’s win. That honor went to the bullpen. The Phillies have 11 men in their bullpen with rosters having expanded for September and Kapler will use every available one if he has to on a given night. He used six of them after pinch-hitting for Vince Velasquez in the fourth inning and those six combined on six innings of one-run ball to nail down the win. In two wins in Cincinnati, the Phils' pen has picked up 9 2/3 innings and allowed just one run.

“I thought the bullpen came in and threw the ball great,” Harper said. “Down the stretch, we’re going to need that. We’re going to need that out of them and we’re going to need to score runs as an offense to win games. I thought we did that tonight.”

With a deep bullpen and bench, Kapler won’t hesitate to pinch-hit early in games when there are runs to be had.

“Vince gave us everything he had, but he didn’t have his best stuff tonight,” Kapler said. “It felt like the right time in a really high leverage situation to try to break the game open and go to some arms that are very capable given the fact that we had length behind them. We knew that we weren’t going to run out of arms and we had a way to kind of get through that entire lineup several times with the weapons we had in the bullpen. It could be a blueprint [for the rest of the month] if the situation calls for it.”

 

The win improved the Phillies to seven games over .500. They’d failed to get there 11 previous times since mid-June.

“It feels good to get over the hump,” Kapler said.

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