Bryce Harper heard something he didn't like from Giants fans and he did something about it

Bryce Harper heard something he didn't like from Giants fans and he did something about it

SAN FRANCISCO — The Phillies had fun Friday night. And this is notable because all too often lately it has looked like they were having no fun at all.

That’ll happen when you’re not winning, when you’re not scoring runs, when you’re getting one-hit, as the Phillies were on Thursday night.

Twenty-four hours after that miserable performance against the San Francisco Giants, the Phillies rebounded with a 10-hit attack and beat the Giants, 9-6 (see observations).

After watching his team lose three in a row and score just one run in the previous two games, manager Gabe Kapler moved Bryce Harper to the leadoff spot and the move paid dividends. Harper clubbed two mammoth homers (420 and 465 feet) and drove in four runs. Corey Dickerson batted third in Kapler’s shaken not stirred lineup and he had a three-run triple.

“We definitely looked to shake things up today and saw some benefits from it,” Kapler said. “It was nice to see Harper come up several times in big spots. Obviously, you can’t always predict that will happen, but it’s good that it did.”

Harper came up in the seventh inning against lefty reliever Tony Watson with two men on base and the Phils down a run. Harper had been 0 for 8 with three strikeouts in his career against Watson. This time, Harper won the battle. He clubbed a go-ahead, three-run homer that splashed down in McCovey Cove.

The home run saved starter Drew Smyly, who had given up the lead in the bottom of the sixth.

“Every time [Harper] comes up, whether he's struggling or having nights like tonight, I think everybody in the park expects him to do something great,” Smyly said. “I know that he probably hasn't been doing as well as his expectations or a lot of people's, but nights like tonight, he can bust out of it. He just wins the game. He puts the team on his back, and that's what he did tonight.”

Kapler concurred.

“Bryce was huge for us, particularly the home run off Watson,” he said. “When the opposition brings in their left-handed pitcher to get your big left-handed hitter out and Bryce does damage like that, it’s a huge boost to the dugout, a huge momentum shifter.

“This was a huge moment for our club and we certainly rode Bryce to this victory.”

The win broke a three-game losing skid for the Phillies and prevented them from slipping to fourth place in the NL East. They have the same record (60-56) as the New York Mets, who have surged into wild-card contention with 14 wins in their last 15 games. Both teams, along with St. Louis, are a half-game out of the second wild-card berth.

The Phils will need more nights like this from Harper to stay in the wild-card chase, more nights when he produces and plays with emotion that is contagious.

Harper, who considered signing with San Francisco before taking $330 million from the Phillies, hears it from fans wherever he goes. Chants of Overrated! … Overrated! rain down upon him in every — yes, every — visiting ballpark. He usually lets it all roll off his shoulders without acknowledging it. But on this night, Harper responded to the fans. After his first homer, a solo shot in the fifth, he crossed home plate, raised his index finger to his lips and shushed the crowd.

Two innings later, he celebrated his three-run homer with teammates as he made his way to the dugout.

Harper would not get into specifics, but something definitely fired him up.

“I think it just depends on what people say,” he said. “There are things people say that people shouldn't say and shouldn't come out of their mouths but that's part of sports, I guess, and that's part of fan bases. San Fran's got a great fan base. They love their team, they love their city. It's a lot of fun going back and forth so it's good.”

Rhys Hoskins hit behind Harper. He said fans in the box seats around the Phillies dugout were “wearing him out all night.”

Ultimately, Harper had the last word.

“It's always fun coming into hostile environments and hostile situations,” he said.

It’s about time that the Phillies played with a little joy of the game.

“Oftentimes what we find is good performance leads to enjoyment,” Kapler said. “Winning and scoring runs leads to life on the field and when you don’t see that sometimes it feels like there isn’t life. That’s not taking anything away from what you saw today, which was Bryce enjoying himself and our dugout enjoying themselves.

“It was playful in the dugout. Sometimes being playful and smiling a little bit and not having things be too serious can lead to production like we saw today.”

The Phillies and Giants play again Saturday afternoon.

And the lineup?

“I think that we’ll probably run Bryce back out at the top again tomorrow,” Kapler said.

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

AP Images

Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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