Phillies: Lifting Bryce Harper after HBP the prudent move

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 07: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game on March 07, 2020 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 07: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning of a Grapefruit League spring training game on March 07, 2020 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Why The Phils Can’t Afford to Lose Harper

Harper certainly didn’t lack for big thrills once he got himself reasonably self-repaired in Philadelphia last year. Maybe the biggest of the bunch was that August night he ruined one of Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish‘s best outings of the season, a ten-punchout performance working a 5-0 shutout after the Phillies closed the deficit to a pair in the bottom of the ninth and loaded the pads for Harper with one out against reliever Derek Holland.

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The T-R-A-T-I-O-R hit one so high over the foul line that Harper had to linger not for show but to be sure the ball would stay fair before landing in the upper deck.

It stayed fair. And as the three Phillies already on board put enough distance behind them heading home, Harper shot up the line like the Road Runner giving Wile E. Coyote his famous cork-popping razz before going beep-beep! and ripping up the ground in his backwash.

It was the 29th ultimate grand slam (hit to win the game in the final inning with the team behind when the hitter connects) in baseball history.

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“I don’t think about bases loaded. I try to get a pitch I can drive and hopefully good things happen,” Harper said in a postgame interview. “I love those moments. I love those opportunities . . . These fans do expect that, and I expect to do that for them on a nightly basis. And if I don’t, they’ll let me know, and I like that too.”

Phillies fans will continue expecting such things, even if not every home run Harper hits makes you think it shouldn’t have the proverbial meal and stewardess but rather astronauts aboard. So will Girardi and his teammates. These Phillies look so far like a team that’s going to need every break it can get to survive. That shaggy fellow wearing number 3 won’t exactly shy from it.

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Which is probably why Girardi lifted Harper after that first-inning foot plunk. He can’t afford to have his number one game breaker broken.