Bryce Harper returns in style, helps Phillies to fifth straight win originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Four hours before first pitch, Rhys Hoskins had it all figured out.
"It's a good day to be a Phillie," he said. "Bryce is back. He'll inject some energy into the lineup. Obviously, he's a force and a presence. But that doesn't mean the game we're playing is going to change. We're just hoping to add on to what we've got going on."
And that's just what the Phillies did Friday night.
Harper made a memorable re-entry into the Phillies' lineup. The crowd of 30,546 stood and cheered as he strode in lime green spikes to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs in the first inning. He did not disappoint. Showing the dramatic flair he often has in his four seasons in Philadelphia, he stroked a two-run single to right field for the first runs of the game.
"I started laughing because it was awesome," Harper said of that first at-bat. "I love those types of moments. I love those types of opportunities, love jam-packed crowds and being able to play in front of 40,000 people. That's what it's all about.
"It's so much fun to go out there and have a team that's in (a playoff race). We have an opportunity to play in the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs. It's fun to be able to have the support of the fans.
"I just started laughing because it's so cool to be able to be in that moment, that situation. My teammates set me up for a perfect opportunity there and I was able to come through."
Harper said he watched every game on TV while he was out. The Phillies went 32-20 in his absence. They hold the second NL wild-card position with 36 games to go.
"It's been fun to watch and even more fun to be out there and be around them," Harper said. "We need to keep being great as a team. I'm just trying to come in here and not screw it up."
The Phillies kept bringing it after Harper's two-run single in the first inning. They chased Pittsburgh starter Bryse Wilson after an inning and led, 6-0, after two.
Lefty Bailey Falter, pressed into duty when Zack Wheeler went on the injured list Thursday, allowed three runs on a pair of homers over six innings and picked up his second win on the homestand. He was called up to face the Mets in a doubleheader last weekend and pitched six innings of one-run ball. Falter has been recalled from the minors seven times this season. He has delivered a quality start in his last three big-league starts, two against Pittsburgh.
"Whatever the team needs, I'm here for," he said.
He'll get another start next week in Arizona.
The Pirates have lost 16 of their last 20 games and are 47-78. Only Washington has a worse record in the NL. The Phils have won all five games against the Pirates this season.
Manager Rob Thomson didn't mess with what's good. Schwarber batted leadoff, Hoskins hit second and Bohm stayed in the three spot, which had previously been occupied by Harper, who batted cleanup.
Thomson's thinking was such: Schwarber, Harper and No. 7 hitter Bryson Stott all hit left-handed.
"Having the lefties 1-4-7 spreads 'em out so you have two righties in between all of them," Thomson said. "So pick your poison which lefty (reliever) you want to use on Schwarb or Harp and then you're going to have to take down a couple of pretty good righties."
Thomson's lineup construction seemed almost storybook when Harper went to the plate with the bases full in the first inning and the crowd roaring.
"My father once said, a really bright executive knows how to take credit for stuff that just falls in his lap," Thomson said with a laugh. "So that's why I put him in the four-hole.
"No. It was great. He came through and we jumped on those guys."
In addition to the lime green, Phanatic-inspired spikes, the stylish Harper wore a strand of white beads around his neck.
A two-run single and a victory.
The beads are staying.
"I thought they were cool," Harper said. "Apple Pay got me."