Harper, Realmuto's returns spark statement win over Mets

If one of a team’s best players gets hurt, the manager will usually say something about having confidence in whoever will be filling in while mentally crossing his fingers and wondering if he can get the front office to spring for a plane ticket to Lourdes.

Next man up has a nice ring to it. Having the stars in the lineup is almost always way better, though.

Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto had missed the last three games with a sore right knee. First baseman Bryce Harper didn’t play against the Mets Tuesday afternoon due to a migraine.

“It runs in my family,” Harper said. There are times when I get it. I got it 30 minutes before first pitch (Wednesday). It’s just not a good feeling. Not fun.” He added that they usually last two-and-a-half to three hours.

Both started Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park when the venue, but not the opponent, changed. Both played key roles in helping the Phillies rally in the fifth inning to win their third straight against their longtime division rival, 10-5. They’ve also won 16 of their last 19 games to capture, and retain, the best record in baseball.

The stat of the night comes courtesy of Tim Kelly from Phillies Nation: The Phils lead baseball with 31 wins through May 15. In 2015 they didn’t win their 31st game until July 18.

Harper was 3-for-5 with a double, a homer and 3 RBI.

“It’s tough preparing for a guy you haven’t seen in awhile,” he said. “You’re kind of going off Triple-A stuff. He has a good sinker and I thought he kept us off balance for a little bit. But, obviously, we were able to get some pitches out over the plate and have some good at bats and get the lead right there.”

Realmuto delivered the bases-loaded single that put the Phillies ahead for good in the fifth. Manager Rob Thomson said after the game that he’s good to go Thursday.

Mets lefty Joey Lucchesi, making his first appearance against the Phillies in more than three years, stifled baseball’s second-best offense allowing one run on three hits through four.

The run came on Harper’s 10th home run of the year, a two-out, opposite-field solo shot that tied the score in the bottom of the first.

The Phillies were down by a run going into the fifth when the bottom of the order set the table for Realmuto and Harper to deliver the knockout punches in a four-run outburst.

It started with Lucchesi suddenly losing the strike zone and walking Edmundo Sosa and Cristian Pache. Johan Rojas bunted, loading the bases when Lucchesi made an ill-advised late throw to third trying to force Sosa. Kyle Schwarber then forced in a run by drawing the third base on balls of the inning.

With the score now tied, Realmuto singled to drive in Pache and Rojas, bringing Harper to the plate.

Lucchesi’s first pitch was up and in, knocking Harper off the plate. The crowd of 37,219 responded. Oooooooh. The next pitch was a sinker in the middle of the strike zone and Harper answered in the best way possible. This time the reaction from the stands was even louder – OOOOOOOH! – as he doubled in two more runs.

With that, Lucchesi was gone and the rout was on against the Mets bullpen. Once the dam broke, Phillies runners flooded across the plate. Two more in the sixth. Three more in the seventh.

In a related note, shortstop Trea Turner (left hamstring strain) took grounders, hit in the cage, ran and threw before the game. There’s still no timetable for his return. “But he’s coming along fine,” Thomson said.

In the 11 games he’s been absent, the Phillies have averaged 7.2 runs per game. It was originally estimated he’d miss about six weeks. Until then, the Phillies can only imagine what their offense might accomplish once he’s back.