Phillies 9, Giants 6: Bryce Harper's home runs silence the Giants

Phillies 9, Giants 6: Bryce Harper's home runs silence the Giants


SAN FRANCISCO — Looking to spark a lifeless lineup, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler moved Bryce Harper to the leadoff spot Friday night.

Harper delivered the spark that Kapler and the Phillies needed. The $330-million man drove in four runs with a pair of long home runs to backbone a 9-6 win over the San Francisco Giants at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

Harper clubbed a 420-foot solo homer to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning. Drew Smyly gave up three runs and the lead in the bottom of the sixth but the Phils showed some moxie in the seventh inning. They got the first two runners on base against reliever Tony Watson and that set the stage for Harper’s go-ahead, 456-foot home run into McCovey Cove. The Phils pushed across a fourth run in the inning on a sacrifice fly by J.T. Realmuto.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Phils and prevented them from falling behind the red-hot New York Mets and into fourth place in the National League East standings. Both teams are 60-56. Of more relevance, the Phillies are a half-game out of the second NL wild-card spot, tied with the Mets and Cardinals.

Smyly’s night

On paper, this was a good matchup for the lefty. He’d pitched seven shutout innings against the Giants two starts ago. Also, the Giants are the worst hitting team in the majors against left-handed starting pitching. They came in hitting .229 with a .668 OPS against lefty starters, both MLB lows.

But the Giants had little trouble solving Smyly in this one. He went 5 2/3 innings and gave up seven hits, including three homers. He allowed six runs, two of which were unearned.

Lineup shuffle

Looking for offense, Kapler batted his two best sluggers in the top two spots in the batting order. Harper hit leadoff and Rhys Hoskins batted second. Corey Dickerson hit third, Jean Segura cleanup and Realmuto fifth. Harper batted leadoff four times in June.

Kapler explained the lineup before the game:

“We want to spark our offense. We know that we’re a very talented group. We’re trying various ways, we’re not sitting on our hands, we’re not looking the other way and acting like we’re not struggling offensively. We’re trying everything we can to get this group going and to light a fire and sometimes one way to do that is to move pieces around in the lineup, never just for the sake of moving them around, but with a game plan in mind where we have two guys at the top who might work really good at-bats and give us a chance to win the first inning which we deem as important.”

Harper and Hoskins combined to score five of the Phillies’ nine runs.

A breakthrough

Seven of the Phillies’ nine runs were driven in by two players. Harper drove in four and Corey Dickerson plated three with a bases-loaded triple in the third inning.

The Phils have struggled with runners in scoring position lately. Their troubles have been even more pronounced with the bases loaded. Dickerson’s three-run triple in third inning was just the Phillies’ fourth hit in 34 at-bats with the bases loaded since the All-Star break.

Sights and sounds

The Phils haven’t played with much exuberance lately. Going the wrong way in the standings will do that to you. Harper, in particular, seemed to really enjoy himself in this game. Obviously, he produced in a big way and that will make the game fun. But he also had a good time interacting with fans who gave him the business with the typical chants of “Overrated! … Overrated!” before every at-bat. Harper hears it everywhere, but it seemed to get his attention more in San Francisco. The Giants were the runner-up for his services when the Phillies signed him in the spring.

Harper usually lets the jeers of opposing fans roll off his back, but he responded to these fans. After he crossed home plate with his first home run, he lifted his index finger to his lips and gave the fans the shush sign. That, of course, did not quiet them down any, but Harper clearly had the last laugh.

Bullpen gets it done

Mike Morin, Ranger Suarez and Hector Neris got the final nine outs to protect the lead.

The Phils are just 25-41 all-time in the Giants’ home yard, which now goes by the name Oracle Park.

Up next

The series continues on Saturday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (4-6, 4.23) will look to build on a strong outing in Arizona his last time out. He will face right-hander Jeff Samardzija (8-9, 3.70).

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J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

More than once last summer, J.T. Realmuto expressed his affection for Philadelphia and said he’d one day be up for signing a long-term contract extension with the Phillies.

The specter of his upcoming salary arbitration hearing hasn’t changed his outlook.

“Not at all,” he said before the 116th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet Monday night. “Anybody who knows about the arbitration process knows it’s business. It’s not necessarily me against the Phillies right now. There’s definitely not going to be any hard feelings there. So I feel like we’re at the same place we were two or three months ago as far as with the contract extension.”

Before the two sides go to work on a long-term contract extension, Realmuto is likely to play the 2020 season on a one-year contract. Barring an unlikely settlement, Realmuto will have his 2020 salary decided by an arbitration panel next month. He is seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies’ arbitration offer is $10 million. The arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides then pick one number or the other.

Realmuto knows the game. He went to arbitration with the Miami Marlins two years ago and lost.

“I have a good understanding of the process,” he said. “I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me. It’s more the system. There are no hard feelings there.”

Realmuto, who turns 29 in March, is coming off a season in which he solidified himself as baseball’s best catcher while making $5.9 million. He was an All-Star. He was the catcher on the inaugural All-MLB team and he won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League. He led all big-league catchers in hits, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits while swatting a career-high 25 homers. He threw out 37 runners trying to steal, the most in the majors.

Realmuto’s 2019 season put him in a good position to win his arbitration case.

But he made it clear that this is about more than just himself.

"It’s not me against the Phillies,” he said. “It’s the system that we’re trying to fight right now.  I’m trying to go out and set a precedent for future catchers in the game and I feel like I had a season worthy of doing that so I’m going to fight for that.

"This is not because the Phillies didn’t give us a chance to come to an agreement. We’re fighting for a cause, fighting for the rest of the catchers. Historically, catchers have not been treated well in the arbitration process and we feel like this is an opportunity to advance that for the catchers. Just being able to fight for those guys is something I take pride in. I believe in fighting for future generations and I’m excited to do it."

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established in mid-February, the Phillies are expected to initiate talks on an extension that would begin at the start of the 2021 season. Those talks should commence during spring training. A contract extension is expected to cover up to five seasons with an average annual value of over $20 million.

Realmuto, who was honored as the PSWA’s Athlete of the Year for 2019, was joined by new Phillies manager Joe Girardi at the banquet.

“I’m really excited to play for him,” Realmuto said. “I feel like he’s got a lot of feel. He knows exactly what he wants to do as a manager and has a lot of confidence and he’ll be able to instill that confidence in us.”

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Vince Velasquez 'disappointed' by Astros’ scandal, ready to 'click' in Phillies’ rotation

Vince Velasquez 'disappointed' by Astros’ scandal, ready to 'click' in Phillies’ rotation

Vince Velasquez broke into the majors with the Houston Astros in 2015. His manager was A.J. Hinch. Jeff Luhnow was the general manager.

You know where this is going.

“I never saw anything,” Velasquez said Monday. “A lot of people have asked me, but I wasn’t there when it happened.

“It was shocking to hear about. And a little bit disappointing.”

The Astros were found to have used an illicit sign stealing scheme during their 2017 World Series championship season. Major League Baseball last week suspended Hinch and Luhnow for the 2020 season and Houston ownership followed up by firing both men. The explosive issue also cost Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran their jobs as managers of the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, respectively. Cora was the Astros’ bench coach, and a mastermind of the scheme, in 2017, and Beltran was a player on the team.

Velasquez pitched in just 19 games for the Astros in 2015. He was traded to the Phillies in December of that year.

Pitchers and catchers have always been cognizant of changing their signs and varying their sequences in running through signs, especially when there is a runner on second base, to combat sign stealing. Velasquez predicted that pitchers and catchers will be even more diligent in light of the Astros' scandal.

“Now, we have to be more observant of what we’re doing,” he said. “I think it’s going to be part of the discussion [in spring training.] You have to learn to protect yourself.”

Velasquez is spending the week in Philadelphia helping the team with some promotional work. (He even plans to throw a couple of bullpen sessions in the cages at Citizens Bank Park.) On Monday, Velasquez and teammate Roman Quinn joined former Phillies Milt Thompson and Mickey Morandini at a youth instructional clinic at the Ryan Howard Training Center in South Philadelphia. Forty-five young players affiliated with the Phillies/MLB Urban Youth Academy and RBI program showed up a cold January day to get a head start on the season and some tips from the Phillies players past and present.

Quinn missed significant time last season with a torn groin muscle, the latest in a series of injuries that has robbed the exciting outfielder of playing time in his career. He has made changes to his offseason conditioning program and believes he can stay healthy in 2020 and make a run at the Phillies’ starting centerfield job. As it stands right now, he will battle Adam Haseley for the job in camp.

“I trust my abilities and I know if I’m healthy then it’s hard to keep me out of the lineup,” Quinn said.

Like Quinn, Velasquez will be in a spring-training battle.

The top four spots in the Phillies’ rotation are set with Aaron Nola, Zach Wheeler, Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta. Velasquez will compete with Nick Pivetta for the fifth spot in the rotation. The loser of the competition will not necessarily be out of a job as the Phillies need bullpen help and one of the two could end up there.

Velasquez knows where he wants to be.

“I can play any role, but I want to start,” the 27-year-old right-hander said. “I want to be in the rotation. I want to be in that playoff run and I want to be that guy for that game.

“I know I have a job to earn. That’s my main focus. Battling.”

Velasquez, as Phillies fans know by now, is blessed with a tremendous arm. However, he has struggled to put his talents together and arrive at that place known as consistency. He runs high pitch counts and fails to get through the middle of games. He averaged just 4 2/3 innings in his 23 starts last season.

Velasquez knows it’s time for him to pitch deeper into games and he says, “I want that bad.” He has already established a telephone/text/video relationship with new pitching coach Bryan Price in hopes of picking up some keys to doing that.

“We’re in communication,” Velasquez said. “I’ve spoken to him a number of times and sent him videos of some of my bullpens.”

Velasquez avoided salary arbitration and will make $3.6 million this season. As his price tag goes up, so do expectations and the impatience of team officials. He might not be around at this time next season if he doesn’t produce in 2020.

“I’m very optimistic this is the year it clicks,” Velasquez said. “I know I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I feel like I’m starting to figure a lot of things out. A lot of people tend to figure things out after two or three years in the major leagues and I think this is that time for me to put all the pieces together.

“My time is due. It’s really come down to that point where I need to plug in all the pieces.”

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