Bryce Harper makes much-anticipated return to Phillies lineup vs. Pirates originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The designated hitter, Harper bats cleanup for the first time since July 4, 2021 against Pirates right-hander Bryse Wilson.
Harper missed 52 games and the Phillies went 32-20, not only staying afloat in the National League playoff race but gaining ground. Without their best player and the reigning NL MVP, the Phillies picked up nine games on the Padres and 6½ on the Brewers.
As a result, they enter Friday's series opener against Pittsburgh a season-high 15 games over .500 at 70-55. The Phils have gone 16-2 in their last 18 games against sub-.500 teams and play their next 15 against clubs with losing records.
Harper picked up this season where he left off in 2021. After hitting .309 with a majors-best 1.044 OPS last year, he was hitting .318 with a .985 OPS when he went down in late June. He has 21 doubles, 15 homers and 48 RBI in 275 plate appearances.
The plan was initially for Harper to play five games during a rehab assignment with Triple A Lehigh Valley from Tuesday through Saturday but he showed he was ready by homering twice in the first game and picking up three hits (including a walk-off double) in the second.
With 37 games left, Harper has plenty of time to make his presence felt down the stretch. That second wild-card spot does, however, seem like the Phillies' ceiling in terms of playoff positioning because as hot as they've been, they're still 7½ behind the Braves.
Here is Friday's lineup:
1. Kyle Schwarber, LF
2. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
3. Alec Bohm, 3B
4. Bryce Harper, DH
5. J.T. Realmuto, C
6. Nick Castellanos, RF
7. Bryson Stott, SS
8. Jean Segura, 2B
9. Matt Vierling, CF
Bailey Falter, SP