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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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