Bryce Harper conks a Braves fan with a 465-foot homer and Phillies win again

Bryce Harper conks a Braves fan with a 465-foot homer and Phillies win again

Sometimes it’s crazy how things work out. Seven weeks ago, the Phillies were getting ready to report to spring training. Maikel Franco wasn’t sure how long he’d last in camp because there was still a chance the Phillies would sign Manny Machado. Had that happened, Franco would have been traded and the Phillies would have backed off on Bryce Harper because their offseason star hunt would have been complete.

In other words, all of the excitement that occurred Saturday at Citizens Bank Park never would have happened.

“That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard it here,” Rhys Hoskins said of the eruption that Harper’s first homer as a Phillie caused. “And I think there’s more in there. We’re in March. What happens when we’re in September and October? It’s going to be fun — fun to be a part of.”

Harper’s 465-foot bomb into the second deck above right-center was one of three homers the Phillies clubbed en route to an 8-6 win over the Braves and a 2-0 start to the season. Franco hit his second in as many games (he has two straight three-RBI games) and J.T. Realmuto clubbed his first as a Phillie. After a productive winter that saw them add new talents in the No. 1, 2, 3 and 5 spots in the batting order, the Phillies now go eight deep in their lineup. Thirteen of the 18 runs they have scored in two games have come via the home run ball.

Harper’s home run was what the fans — a sellout crowd of 44,597 — came to see. The ball struck a woman from Tennessee — a Braves fan who was unharmed — and made it back to the Phillies’ clubhouse. Harper was happy to get the souvenir. It was, after all, his first hit with the Phillies.

“Definitely one of the cooler homers I've ever hit,” he said. “Just the fan base, just the stadium, the electricity we had in this place, it all came together. The Realmuto homer, the Franco homer, Rhys' homer the other day — this place is electrifying and our clubhouse, our dugout, everybody's pulling for each other. What a great moment for everybody.” 

Harper’s homer came off Jesse Biddle, the former Phillies’ first-round draft pick now with the Braves. Harper and Biddle go way back. They played together in USA Baseball programs as teenagers. Before the homer, Harper had been 0 for 5 with four strikeouts against Biddle in his career.

The ball came off Harper’s bat like a missile at 114 mph. Hoskins had a front row seat in the on-deck circle.

“I just kind of had my mouth open, jaw dropped,” he said. “It was kind of, ‘Wow.’ I don’t think you could write it any better.”

Or hit it any better.

Harper is a bat junkie, always picking up his teammates’ bats and seeing how they feel. He used one of Nick Williams’ bats for the home run.

After rounding the bases, Harper and teammates went through a series of playful handshakes. He then was lured out of the dugout for a curtain call. He rose to the top step, thrust his arms skyward and shouted …

“Let’s go with something else in between it,” he said with a laugh. “Usually, when I go up there I’m pretty fired up. Just seeing the fans fired up for us as a team, they're coming out and supporting us the past two games, I just want to share that moment with them. I was pretty fired up. I thought they were as well.”

Oh, they were. And they’ll be fired up again Sunday night when the new and improved Phillies look for a sweep of the Braves and a little early-season statement on national TV.

“It’s the third game of the season and you have to take them one at a time,” Harper said. “But it’s always fun when all eyes are on you in the baseball world. I think as a team we’re really looking forward to it. I think a lot of people are going to be watching March Madness — go Duke — but I hope everybody is going to be watching us, as well.”

So far, it’s been a pretty good show.

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Can we order these Philly team hats with or without cheesesteaks on them?

New Era

Can we order these Philly team hats with or without cheesesteaks on them?

Uh … what in the world are these?

Listen, I’m not a ‘let me speak to the manager’ kind of person … but who approved this? I’d just like to talk to them.

New Era released a new line of hats called Team Describe for select NBA and MLB  teams and I hope for everyone’s sake, they stop there.

When you look at the design for both the Sixers and Phillies, it almost seems like a parody of what the actual hat should be. And what stinks even more is the fact other teams actually have some pretty cool looking hats  — a favorite of mine being the Toronto Blue Jays.

On the site alongside the hats, it says, “The Philadelphia 76ers/Phillies Team Describe 59FIFTY Fitted Cap features an embroidered 76ers/Phillies logo at the front panels alongside the Liberty Bell with a Philly cheesesteak embroidered at the rear beside a team color NBA/MLB logo.”

The front of the hat was manageable … it’s the chili-dog looking cheesesteak on the back though that raises some concern.

I promise you, designers of the world, there is more to Philadelphia than just cheesesteaks. And even though there are most certainly fans that will purchase them, the majority are looking at this and wondering … what the heck is this?

If you want to check out the website for them, which apparently has sold out in certain sizes, you can go here for the Phillies and here for Sixers.

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MLB rule changes 2020: Phillies most affected by the new 3-batter rule

MLB rule changes 2020: Phillies most affected by the new 3-batter rule

MLB's new three-batter rule for relievers should have a fairly significant impact on the way managers manage and pitching coaches handle their bullpens.

To review, the new rule is that a pitcher entering after the starting pitcher must face at least three batters or pitch to the end of the current inning. So, for example, if Adam Morgan comes in with two on and two outs in the sixth inning and gets the third out, he does not need to come back out for the seventh.

This rule will obviously most affect relief specialists. Let's use Jose Alvarez as an example. Last season, Alvarez was one of the few Phillies pitchers who didn't take a step back from the prior year. He had a 3.36 ERA in 67 appearances. In 14 of those appearances, Alvarez faced one or two batters. It's why he amassed just 59 innings in those 67 appearances.

As best as they could, the Phillies tried to avoid having Alvarez face right-handed hitters. But it still happened frequently because there are more righties than lefties and because other teams routinely try to gain the platoon advantage by pinch-hitting.

Lefties hit just .236 with a .277 on-base percentage and .382 slugging percentage vs. Alvarez in 2019. Righties hit .328/.385/.475. 

An actual example

To find an example of the type of appearance we'll no longer see, let's go back to last June 15, a 6-5 Phillies win in Atlanta. In that game, Alvarez came on with runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the seventh to face left-handed hitting Nick Markakis. He struck him out looking to end the inning.

This season, Joe Girardi and Bryan Price may be leery of bringing in Alvarez in that spot. The next two hitters were right-handed Austin Riley and switch-hitting Ozzie Albies, who was one of the best hitters in baseball last season against lefties (.389/.414/.685). The upside of ending the inning at Markakis may not be worth having to potentially use the lefty Alvarez against Riley and Albies. 

Risk vs. reward

Managers and pitching coaches will have to constantly weigh whether the platoon advantage against a specific player (Markakis in this case) is worth the subsequent disadvantage if the inning doesn't end. You're always going to want a lefty facing Freddie Freeman, but you may be able to get away with keeping your right-handed pitcher in to face Markakis in that instance above.

Recently signed Francisco Liriano could be better equipped to deal with this rule change. While he's been much better against lefties throughout his career, he's also had some success against righties because of the effectiveness of his changeup. His career splits: .218/.296/.305 from lefties and .249/.335/.399 from righties. That follows closely with how he performed against righties last season as well.

Morgan should be relatively unaffected — when he's been successful it has been against hitters from both sides, not just lefties.

Righties could feel it, too

The rule change doesn't end with southpaws, though. While the left vs. left matchup traditionally is harder on the hitter than right vs. right, some right-handed relievers will feel this too.

Vince Velasquez, for example, could play a key relief role for the Phillies. Throughout his career, Velasquez has allowed left-handed hitters a batting average 24 points higher than righties and an OPS 67 points higher. Maybe you want Velasquez coming in to face Marcell Ozuna, who is 3 for 20 lifetime off of him, but you're going to hesitate if Markakis (9 for 22 with a double and four walks) is lingering on deck.

How 'bout the hitters?

On the flip side, this could benefit a few Phillies hitters. We don't yet know how the Phils are going to construct their lineup, but you'd think that Bryce Harper will be followed by right-handed Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto. Harper was so good against lefties last season (.283 BA, .949 OPS, 15 HR) that teams in 2020 may opt to just use a right-hander against those three hitters. Why bring in a lefty who may not retire Harper anyway just to be forced to use that lefty against Hoskins and Realmuto?

Faster pace of play

It's unclear exactly how managers will adapt to the new three-batter rule but it is clear that it will shorten games. Think about all the innings last season — particularly in September — when three or four different pitchers were used. That's about 10 minutes right there of just pitching changes, factoring in the time it takes a manager to walk to the mound and the time it takes the new reliever to get to the mound and complete his warmups.

This should also create more offense, too, since there will be fewer platoon-based matchups late in games. If MLB goes away from golf balls and goes back to actual baseballs that don't turn 50 percent of the league into 20-home-run hitters, that extra offense should be a positive as well.

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