Phillies

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 get a handful of clutch performances in beating Dallas Keuchel and keeping season alive

Phillies get a handful of clutch performances in beating Dallas Keuchel and keeping season alive

ATLANTA — The Phillies survived a ninth-inning high-wire act from Hector Nervous, er, Neris and held on for a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.

With 13 games to go, the Phillies are barely alive in the National League wild-card race.

But they are alive.

“We still have odds and we know that,” Rhys Hoskins said. “Sure we know they may be long and we have a lot of work to do, but we’re still in it and I think getting this win tonight is huge.”

It was a good way to open an 11-game road trip that will take the Phillies to Cleveland and Washington after this three-game stop in Atlanta, where the Braves will wrap up a second straight NL East title any day now.

The Phils would rather the Braves not do that while they are here. That happened last year and it was painful.

The entire ending to last season was painful. The Phils went into the final 14 games of last season with a 76-72 record — the same slate they had going into Tuesday night’s game — and went 4-10 down the stretch to finish under .500 at 80-82.

“Everyone that was part of that last year carries that with them,” Hoskins said. “Nobody wants to go through what we went through last year at the end of the year, nobody likes watching people clinch. I think everybody in the whole league is in the same boat there. But we still have a chance and we know it. It started tonight and we just have to continue it tomorrow.”

At 77-72, the Phillies need five wins to have their first winning season since 2011.

They just need wins to stay in the postseason hunt.

They are four games back in a crowded wild-card race.

Picking up wins against the Braves, Indians and Nationals on this trip will require a lot of clutch work and the Phillies got some of that Tuesday. To wit:

• Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez limited damage and stayed in the game after throwing 30 pitches and allowing two runs in the first inning. He delivered five innings of two-run ball.

• Hoskins and Jose Pirela both clubbed two-run homers against Keuchel to help the Phils build a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning. Keuchel came into the game on a big roll. He’d won his previous five starts and had given up just four runs in those games. Beating him would not be easy, but the Phils did it. They had to.

• Overall, the bullpen did some clutch work — four innings, two runs — despite allowing a pair of late homers to make it a one-run game. 

Neris gave up a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth as the Braves made it a one-run game. He then issued a walk to Ronald Acuna Jr., who stole second and moved to third on a ground out. Neris then walked dangerous Freddie Freeman to put runners on the corners for cleanup man Josh Donaldson, who has 88 RBIs. As the ballpark rocked and the tomahawk chop chopped, Neris remained cool and struck out Donaldson before getting Nick Markakis on a pop up to end the game.

“To be able to collect himself after walking Freddie and to get a huge second out against Donaldson was, I think, what kind of tipped it back in our favor,” Hoskins said. “Huge props to Hector. We’ve seen him do that a lot. It was cool to see him come out on top.”

Manager Gabe Kapler praised the composure that Velasquez and Neris showed in the first and ninth innings, respectively.

“I think today, the reason we won the game, in addition to Hector’s composure and Vinnie’s composure, is that we were able to put a big inning on the board highlighted by a really good swing by Rhys Hoskins,” Kapler said.

The manager knows making the playoffs is a long shot. He’s not giving in.

“We spent a lot of time today talking about the importance of these last 14 games,” Kapler said. “We know where we are in the standings, we know what the numbers say, but that’s not what we’re paying attention to right now. We’re paying attention to fighting for each other all the way through the finish line.”

The fight continues Wednesday night with Zach Eflin on the mound. Thirteen games to go and the Phils have no margin for error.

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Phillies get to Dallas Keuchel this time around, hold on to win series opener over Braves

Phillies get to Dallas Keuchel this time around, hold on to win series opener over Braves

BOX SCORE 

ATLANTA — The Phillies kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.

The Phils got two-run homers from Rhys Hoskins and Jose Pirela — both against Atlanta’s Dallas Keuchel — and Vince Velasquez and the bullpen held the Braves to two runs over the final eight innings. All in all, it was a good way to open an 11-game road trip.

The Phillies’ bullpen survived two late homers as the Braves made it a one-run game.

Hector Neris allowed a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth and got the final two outs of the game with runners on the corners.

The standings

The Phillies entered the night five games out in the NL wild-card race. The victory left them with a chance to pull to within four games of the second wild-card playoff spot depending on the outcome of the Chicago Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game.

The Phils have 13 games left. They are 77-72 overall. They need five wins to have their first winning season since 2011.

Velasquez’ night

Though he lasted only five innings, Velasquez did a pretty good job for the Phillies. He had a tough first inning in which he threw 30 pitches and that prompted early action in the Phillies’ bullpen. But the right-hander maintained his composure and held the Braves to just two runs in the inning. It could have been worse, but Velasquez’ ability to limit damage was huge.

After the first inning, Velasquez racked up four scoreless innings and held the Braves to two hits.

Keuchel’s night

The left-hander who had been passed over by the Phillies earlier in the season came into the game on a big roll — five straight wins in which he’d allowed a total of just four runs.

Keuchel sailed through the first three innings then allowed a pair of infield hits and a pair of two-run homers as the Phillies rallied for five in the fourth inning to take the lead.

Hoskins hits one

There have been times this season when Hoskins has looked pull-happy at the plate. He’s a better hitter when he uses the whole field like he did in the fourth inning when he clubbed a two-run homer to right-center to tie the game at 2-2. It was his 29th homer of the season and first solidly to the opposite field. He had four opposite-field homers last season.

Hoskins did a good job staying back on a high changeup to the outside part of the plate from Keuchel. He hit the ball right where it was pitched. He has homered in back-to-back games and has nine since the All-Star break.

Pirela rewards Kapler

Looking to get right-handed bats in the game against Keuchel, manager Gabe Kapler started Sean Rodriguez at third base and Pirela in left field. (Kapler did not start Maikel Franco at third because he did not believe Franco would fare well against Keuchel’s sinker.) Pirela rewarded his manager’s faith with a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth. He had previously been 0 for 5 with two strikeouts against Keuchel.

Braves set team mark

Adeiny Hechavarria’s home run in the eighth was the Braves’ 236th of the season, a team record.

Phillies pitchers have allowed 238 homers this season. That is a team record. The old one was 221.

Up next

Zach Eflin (8-12, 4.20) opposes right-hander Julio Teheran (10-9, 3.50) on Wednesday night.

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