PHILS INSIDER

Phillies' big guns deliver in big win over Braves

PHILS INSIDER

With all the focus and hype swirling around what the Phillies will do at the trade deadline, it's easy to forget that the team's biggest jolt could come in-house.

The Phillies need their best players to be their best players over the final two-plus months if they're going to have a chance to win the very winnable National League East.

On Friday night, the Phils' big guns delivered in front of 23,546 at Citizens Bank Park.

Zack Wheeler spun a beauty.

J.T. Realmuto homered.

Jean Segura had a huge two-run double.

Rhys Hoskins had an important RBI double.

And Bryce Harper -- three stolen bases, including one of home -- ran the bases like the cops were chasing him.

It all added up to a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in a game the Phillies had to have.

"We stole some runs because we were able to steal some bases and Harper was a big part of that," manager Joe Girardi said. "He had a great game. Zack had a great game. Segura had a huge hit for us.

"It was a nice game for us. We needed that game bad."

The win stopped a three-game losing skid and got the Phils back to .500 at 48-48. With a week to go before the trade deadline, the Phils are in second place in the NL East, four games behind the New York Mets. The Braves are a game behind the Phillies. The two teams meet again on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola will start those two games for the Phillies and it sure would help if they could deliver the way Wheeler did Friday night.

 

Wheeler pitched seven workmanlike innings and gave up seven hits and just one run. He walked two and struck out eight while throwing 111 pitches.

Did Wheeler feel a responsibility to stop the skid? 

"Yeah," he said. "When you lose three in a row you need a win. You know you need to come in and keep runs off the board."

The right-hander is 8-5 with a 2.37 ERA in 20 starts this season. Four of those starts and two of those wins have come against the Braves. In 26⅔ innings, he has given up four earned runs for a 1.35 ERA. He has walked six and struck out 34.

It's not easy to dominate the same team over and over. Familiarity with a pitcher can breed success for hitters.

"It's really difficult because there are no secrets," Girardi said. 

Wheeler was staked to a 1-0 lead when Realmuto homered against lefty Max Fried in the first inning. Segura broke a 1-1 tie with a clutch two-run double with two outs in the fourth and Hoskins doubled home a run in the seventh.

And then there was Harper. He was a dynamo. He reached base in his first three plate appearances with a walk, a double and a single. He stole second, third and home. His steal of home came on the back end of a double steal with Hoskins in the fifth.

"I'm glad he's on my team," Wheeler said of Harper.

Only four Phillies in the last 60 years have stolen second, third and home in the same game: Harper, Jayson Werth in 2009, Pete Rose in 1980 and Larry Bowa in 1970.

"We didn't really talk about it," Harper said. "It just kind of happened."

Harper's steal of home was the second of his career. The first came rather famously against Cole Hamels on May 6, 2012, when he was a member of the Washington Nationals.

Speaking of Hamels, he's a free agent and will likely sign as a hired gun with some team soon. The Phillies are looking to add pitching before next week's trade deadline. They've watched Hamels work out. He wouldn't cost talent, just money. 

What do you think, Bryce?

"Cole's one of the best ever to do it in a Phillies uniform," Harper said. "I have a lot of respect for him. Any team that gets him is going to be really good."

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