Phillies at Rockies: Bryce Harper continues to flash MVP form in first win of road trip
Harper continues to flash MVP form in win against Rockies originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Even the bad news turned out to be good news – or at least not so bad news – for the Phillies Friday night at Coors Field.
All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto was forced to leave the 6-3 win over the Rockies in the top of the seventh after injuring his right hand sliding headfirst into third base two innings earlier. That looked like a real buzz kill on an otherwise encouraging evening.
But manager Rob Thomson told reporters after the game that x-rays on Realmuto’s sprained right pinkie were negative and that he expected him to be able to return as early as the Sunday afternoon series finale in Colorado.
“The swelling is down. It’s a little sore but a lot less sore than when he came out of the game. So that’s good. He just kind of jammed it. I’m pretty confident he’ll be ready to go (Sunday).
Realmuto stayed behind the plate for two more innings before giving way to pinch-hitter Garrett Stubbs in the seventh. Stubbs is the only other catcher the Phillies are currently carrying on their 40-man roster, so a series of transactions would be required if the injury turns out to be more serious than the team believes.
“It got stiffer and stiffer as it went,” he said in the clubhouse after the game. “I could really feel it throwing the ball. Every throw just felt worse and worse. I tried to swing under the tunnel and it didn’t feel great.”
However, he added that he fully expects to be able to play again beginning Sunday.
Everything else that happened Friday was a solid plus for the Phillies.
Bryce Harper, just 10 days off the injured list, flashed his MVP form in the eighth. He broke open a tie game with a two-run double then stole third and came home on a wild throw.
Taijuan Walker, who got off to a slow start after signing a 4-year, $72 million free agent contract this offseason, made his second straight strong start. In his last two outings, his earned run average is 2.77.
Ranger Suarez is set to make his 2023 debut Saturday night after missing the first month-and-a-half after injuring his elbow during spring training. That should help solidify the rotation.
In the first game without reliever Jose Alvarado, who is on the 15-day IL with an elbow issue, Craig Kimbrel stepped in Friday night and nailed down the save.
And the Phillies won their fourth straight to get back to .500 for just the second time this season. They also moved past the Marlins and into second place of the National East, the highest they’ve ranked in the division all year.
A lot was made about Harper returning from Tommy John in record time. But in 2022 when he came back after a broken hand, it took him a month to get zoned in at the plate. This year he’s played eight games and is batting .344.
The Phillies winning rally began with a two-out double by Trea Turner and a walk by Alec Bohm. That set the stage for Harper to rip the 300th double of his career and put the Phillies up for good.
The insurance run on Harper’s aggressive baserunning gave the Phils some breathing room, but it probably scared the whey out of Thomson, considering that Harper was just cleared to play 10 days earlier.
“I know everybody was holding their breath a little bit, but I’m going to play the game the way I know how to play it,” he said on the postgame show with Tom McCarthy and Ruben Amaro Jr. “I thought third base was a great opportunity after that double. I don’t think he was really thinking about me. The guy was playing off a little bit. I got a good jump, got there and read the ball into left field, was able to score and got us another run.”
After Walker was tattooed for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings by the Dodgers on May 1, he had a 6.91 ERA. He had also walked 17 batters in 28 2/3 innings. There was talk that he had to be more aggressive, to attack hitters. He hasn’t walked a batter in 13 innings since.
“Fantastic,” Thomson said. “First pitch strikes. Quick outs. You know, our pitching staff in this game only had one three-ball count in the entire game.”
Rockies starter Austin Gomper retired the first 14 batters he faced before Realmuto spoiled the perfect game bid with a double. It was when he tried to take third that he was injured. The Phillies broke through with a solo homer by Alec Bohm and a two-run shot to center by Kyler Schwarber in the seventh.
The Rockies came back to tie the score in the bottom of the inning, setting up Harper’s clutch double in the eighth.
It would be easy to dismiss this as just a win against a last-place team, but the Rockies came into play Friday night having won eight of their last 10.
And, when all was said and done, even the bad news wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.