Bryce Harper returns to Phillies lineup in style, leads 5th straight win – NBC Sports

Bryce Harper returns to Phillies lineup in style, leads 5th straight win - NBC Sports

Four hours before first pitch, Rhys Hoskins had it all figured out.

“It’s a good day to be a Phillie,” he said. “Bryce is back. He’s going to inject some energy into the lineup. Obviously, he’s a force and a presence. But that doesn’t mean the game we’re playing is going to change. We’re just hoping to add to what we have going on.”

And that’s exactly what the Phillies did on Friday night.

Led by the return of Bryce Harper two months and a day after he suffered a broken left thumb, the Phillies kept rolling with a 7-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park.

The win was the Phillies’ fifth in a row, pushing them to a season-high 16 games over .500 and 50-26 since June 1. Only the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers have played better ball since then.

Harper made a memorable re-entry into the Phillies’ lineup. The crowd of 30,546 stood and cheered as he stepped in lime green spikes to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs in the first inning. He did not disappoint. Showing the dramatic flair he often has in his four seasons in Philadelphia, he stroked a two-run single to right field for the game’s first runs.

“I started laughing because it was amazing,” Harper said of that first at-bat. “I love those kinds of moments. I love those kinds of opportunities, love packed crowds and being able to play in front of 40,000 people. That’s what it’s all about.

“It’s so fun to go out there and have a team that’s in (a playoff race). We have a chance to play in the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs. It’s fun to be able to have the support of the fans.

“I just started laughing because it’s so cool to be able to be in that moment, that situation. My teammates set me up for a perfect opportunity there and I was able to come through.”

Harper said he watched every game on TV while he was out. The Phillies went 32-20 in his absence. They hold the second NL wild card position with 36 games to go.

“It was fun to watch and even more fun to be out there and be around them,” Harper said. “We have to continue to be great as a team. I’m just trying to come in here and not screw it up.”

The Phillies kept bringing it after Harper’s two-run single in the first inning. They chased Pittsburgh starter Bryse Wilson after an inning and led, 6-0, after two.

Lefty Bailey Falter, pressed into duty when Zack Wheeler went on the injured list Thursday, allowed three runs on a pair of home runs over six innings and picked up his second win on the homestand. He was called up to face the Mets in a doubleheader last weekend and threw six innings of one-run ball. Falter has been recalled from the minors seven times this season. He has delivered a quality start in his last three big league starts, two against Pittsburgh.

“Whatever the team needs, I’m here,” he said.

He will get another start next week in Arizona.

The Pirates have lost 16 of their last 20 games and are 47-78. Only Washington has a worse record in the NL. The Phils have won all five games against the Pirates this season.

While Harper was on the IL, Kyle Schwarber locked down the leadoff spot with his power bat and Alec Bohm hit his way into the #3 spot in the batting order.

Manager Rob Thomson hasn’t messed with what’s good. Schwarber hit a lead, Hoskins hit a second and Bohm stayed in the three spot, which was previously occupied by Harper, who hit cleanup.

Thomson’s thinking was this: Schwarber, Harper and No. 7 hitter Bryson Stott all hit left-handed.

“Having the lefties 1-4-7 spreads them out so you have two righties between everybody,” Thomson said. “So pick your poison, which lefty (reliever) you want to use on Schwarb or Harp and then you’re going to have to put down some pretty good righties.”

Thomson’s lineup construction seemed almost storybook when Harper went to the plate with the bases loaded in the first inning and the crowd roaring.

“My father once said, a really brilliant executive knows how to take credit for things that just fall into his lap,” Thomson said with a laugh. “So that’s why I put him in the four hole.

“No. It was great. He came through and we jumped on those guys.”

In addition to the lime green, Fanatic-inspired spikes, the elegant Harper wore a string of white beads around her neck.

A two-run single and a win.

The beads remain.

“I thought they were great,” Harper said. “Apple Pay got me.”

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