What is going on with Phillies' Bryce Harper?

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What is going on with Bryce Harper? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Bryce Harper, mired in a weeklong slump, had the afternoon off Sunday in the Phillies’ series finale against the Red Sox.

This past week has been about as unproductive as you’ll ever see him. Over his last seven games, Harper is 2 for 25 with 13 strikeouts and one walk. Some of the strikeouts have come in huge spots, too. In Harper’s final two plate appearances of Saturday’s 4-3 loss, he struck out to strand the bases loaded and grounded out in the ninth inning with the winning run on base.

The low walk total sticks out because it’s so unlike Harper, who typically takes pitches and takes his base even when he’s not hitting. It’s the first time he’s had so few walks in a seven-game span since the final seven games of 2019, but that was more so based on aggressiveness because he was crushing the ball with five extra-base hits in those seven.

When a hitter is going cold, it seems he’s always behind in the count and that’s been especially true for Harper this week. He’s been down 0-2 or 1-2 in nine of his last 12 at-bats.

Joe Girardi has been asked repeatedly this week whether Harper is playing hurt. He insisted again Sunday after the game that Harper’s fine. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the Phillies’ rightfielder is dealing with lingering soreness. He’s been banged up all season — back, fastball to the face, wrist, shoulder.

Harper is definitely the type that feels a sense of responsibility to play every day, especially when the team is struggling, especially when they're at home and especially when they're short-handed, as they are now without the injured J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius. Perhaps the forced day off will do him some good.

Last season, Harper led the majors with 49 walks and struck out 43 times. This season, he’s walked 25 times with 45 strikeouts — in 82 fewer plate appearances.

Strikeouts have plagued the Phillies all season. Entering Sunday, they had whiffed at least 10 times in eight of their last nine games and 476 times on the season, 19 more than any National League team.

The Phillies are committed to fixing this issue but it’s unclear if they can. Their two-strike approach is a daily topic of conversation, Girardi said this week.

Harper sat Sunday against Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. Things don’t get any easier to start the week, though. The Phillies have four games in Miami and the first two are against left-hander Trevor Rogers and right-hander Sandy Alcantara, two hard-throwing, effective young pitchers who held the Phillies to one run in 13⅔ innings with 17 strikeouts earlier this week.

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