Did Phillies save their season after 'gut punch' injuries to Bryce Harper, Jean Segura?

PHILADELPHIA – So the Phillies season has come down to this, here, in Game No. 51, not yet one-third of the way through the season:

They had to win Wednesday night. It was that simple.

The Mets had already won earlier in the day, putting them 13 games ahead of the Phillies in the NL East. The Phillies were already seven games back for the third and final wildcard spot.

Everything was on the verge of falling apart.

The Phillies had already lost five in a row and 12 of 16, including three straight in extra innings. Phillies manager Joe Girardi was already facing questions about getting fired. The players were facing questions about their determination and enthusiasm.

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And management was facing questions about a flawed and expensive roster, with the fourth-highest payroll in baseball at around $230 million.

None of that is going away, even after their unlikely 6-5 win over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday left them 12½ games behind the Mets.

"I think we really needed it bad," Girardi said about the win.

And yes, the Phillies played that way.

Before the game, Girardi revealed that second baseman Jean Segura will miss the next 10-12 weeks with a broken finger. Soon after, Bryce Harper was scratched from the lineup with a sore right forearm.

Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber called it "kind of a little gut punch there."

Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber, right, and Bryson Stott celebrate after Schwarber's two-run home run against San Francisco Giants pitcher Jarlin Garcia during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber, right, and Bryson Stott celebrate after Schwarber's two-run home run against San Francisco Giants pitcher Jarlin Garcia during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Then Aaron Nola imploded, allowing five runs to start the sixth inning, putting the Phillies in a 5-2 hole.

The season was about three innings away from falling apart.

Then shortstop Nick Maton, called up earlier Wednesday to replace Segura, hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. Two batters later, Schwarber hit another two-run homer.

Just like that, the Phillies were back in front.

Of course, the bullpen still had to close it out. That included closer Corey Knebel, who had given up ninth-inning homers in two straight games. Perhaps sensing another collapse, many fans started leaving their seats as Knebel jogged in from the bullpen.

This time, Knebel came through, retiring the Giants in order to preserve the victory. The fans who stayed stood and cheered, letting out a collective sigh of relief.

Perhaps the Phillies did, too, knowing that they just might have saved their season, on June 1, with 111 games left to play.

They tried small-ball, manufacturing a run in the third on three singles and a stolen base, then scoring another in the fifth on a safety squeeze by Maton.

It was 2-0, and Nola was cruising.

He had thrown 58 pitches through five innings. But, of course, we have seen this movie before. Nola started the sixth by giving up two straight doubles and a single. Then he hit a batter and gave up a three-run homer to Wilmer Flores.

Just like that, the Phillies were down 5-2.

"I made some bad pitches, some bad two-strike pitches," Nola said. "I just hung that curve to Flores."

Maton, Schwarber and the bullpen bailed him out.

But one win does not solve the Phillies' problems.

The Phillies will have to replace Segura at second base for the long haul as Girardi said he might not return until September. So far, the options are Maton, rookie Bryson Stott, who had two hits Wednesday to raise his average to .143, and journeyman Johan Camargo.

Ideally, Stott would have been sent down to the minor leagues by now in order to play every day. But with Segura joining shortstop Didi Gregorius on the injured list, the Phillies have no choice but to keep him with the big-league club for depth.

Gregorius is expected back in the coming days.

That’s just one of the Phillies' problems. They're last in the National League in defensive runs saved, according to Baseball Info Solutions. The bullpen ERA is 4.17, among the worst in baseball.

And even with his 12 homers, Schwarber is still hitting just .192 while batting leadoff. J.T. Realmuto is mired in a season-long slump. Nick Castellanos had gone 18 games without a homer before hitting two earlier in the week.

Harper has been by far the Phillies' most consistent player, hitting .303 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs. But he hasn't played the outfield since mid-April, and likely won't for the rest of the season because of an elbow injury that would have ended his season if not for the National League instituting the designated hitter rule this season.

Girardi said after the game that Harper's forearm soreness is not related to his elbow issues, and that he hopes Harper will be back on Friday when the Phillies open a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.

But who knows how much longer Harper can keep playing through his pain.

"I think we all know what the deal is there," Schwarber said. "The guy’s going out grinding every single day. It’s obviously really nice when he’s in the lineup, and the days that he can’t go, we have to find a way to do our thing."

The Phillie need Harper, just like they need Schwarber, Castellanos and Realmuto.

Combined, those four players account for $624 million in salary for the life of their contracts.

They're supposed to carry the team with their offense, to overcome the defensive shortcomings and the much-maligned bullpen.

That hasn't happened, at least not consistently enough. That explains the Phillies' 22-29 record. And it also explains why they were so desperate for a win not even one-third of the way through the season.

"Do I believe that the record shows who we are as a team? No, I do not believe that," Schwarber said. "I think we’re better. But we do have to find a way to win baseball games.

"At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about – winning baseball games."

The Phillies need to do much more of that. Somehow.

Contact Martin Frank at Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Phillies save season after Bryce Harper, Jean Segura injuries