PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies keep seeing it, over and over again, but somehow it’s more jaw-dropping through the game.
They have no more words, no more ways to describe Bryce Harper.
“I’m running out of things to say about the guy,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said Tuesday night. “I don’t think you can write anything better. He’s the most talented player I’ve ever played with. It’s really cool to see him be The Guy. We’re used to seeing him as The Guy.
“But it’s cool to see him be The Guy on baseball’s biggest stage.”
The Phillies broke a World Series record by tying five homers, totaling 1,950 feet, beating the Houston Astros, 7-0, in the franchise’s most lopsided shutout victory in Series history. world.
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Never before in World Series history has a team hit three homers in the first two innings of a game.
Never before in World Series history has a team hit five homers in the first five innings of a game.
Never before in World Series history has a team hit five homers against a single pitcher, Astros starter Lance McCullers.
But never before has the World Series had Bryce Harper, and he’s putting on a show for the ages this postseason, hitting .382 with six home runs, 13 RBIs with an insane 1.232 OPS.
Harper may have only hit one of the five home runs, but none were bigger, as the Phillies kept telling everyone late at night in their clubhouse.
“He just energized the whole building,” Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm said.
Harper hit one of the most famous homers in Philadelphia history to send the Phillies to the World Series last week, and with his first batting tonight, hit a two-run first-inning homer that attracted 45,712 fans. the night.
The Phillies led 2-0 after the first inning at the Harper homer, 4-0 after the second inning at the Bohm and Brandon Marsh homers, and 7-0 after the fifth inning at the Kyle Schwarber and Hoskins homers.
“It was Bryce who set the tone with that first punch,” said Hoskins, who also homered six for the Phillies in the playoffs with his fifth-inning blast. “It was crazy. I think it took [the fans] until the eighth inning before sitting out.”
The man who wrote Harper’s paycheck, giving him a record-breaking 13-year, $330 million franchise contract four years ago, never sat down.
“He’s the most underpaid man by $330 million,” owner John Middleton told USA TODAY Sports. “He really is. What he’s doing is amazing. He’s a special player. A very special player.
“He shows everyone what he is in the playoffs. He is a multi-generational talent. He’s doing everything he can to help us get that World Series trophy.
“And I want [expletive] return trophy.
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The Phillies have been World Series champions for 14 years, with just two titles in the last 42 years, but here they are, just two championship wins with a surprising 2-to-1 lead over the heavily favored Astros. .
Maybe there really is something magical going on with this team. How else can you explain that a team that started 22-29, finished third in the NL East, was the last team to reach the playoffs solely because of the expanded playoffs, now shocks the world?
“I think all year we kind of knew what we had and felt good about our team,” said Bohm, who homered after getting a tip from Harper, “knowing that everywhere where you look on our list, we have very good players, some experience, so we have to be confident.
“I think the more you show up in these situations, I think confidence grows naturally.”
And no one has been more confident these days than Harper.
“Bryce probably sets one of the best examples of anybody in the league,” Bohm said, “of how to show up and play the game. So just to be in the dugout with him, watch him, be on the pitch with him, he always shows you how it’s done, so he doesn’t have much to say, but he always tries to lend a hand and improve the team.
“I think the example he sets every day is really what makes him the leader he is.”
It was Harper’s shot, sending McCuller’s curve ball 402 feet into the night into the right-center bleachers, that sent McCullers spinning into a pirouette on the mound.
“That was crazy, one throw, boom!” Middleton said. “As soon as he hit it, I knew he was gone. It’s crazy. … But for Bryce to open a game like that, 2-0, three hitters, it’s pretty special. He lights up the place. Lights up the bench. It really gets everyone moving. It’s really special, wow.”
McCullers never recovered. He faced 16 other batters, giving up home runs to four of them, and was knocked out of the game after just 4 ⅓ innings.
“Bryce Harper has had a star to his name since playing baseball,” McCullers said. “It was a bad pitch. I was like before the attack, ‘Don’t let it beat, you’re here.’
There were a lot of conjectures and theories that McCullers tipped the scales. He allowed only one home run to a left-handed hitter all season. He gave up three of nine plate appearances to lefties, throwing 34 pitches and generating just one swing-and-miss.
It was as if the Phillies knew exactly what was coming, a legal version of sign stealing.
“I’m not going to sit here and say something like that,” McCullers said. “I got booed. End of the story.”
But, oh, how was the final chapter of the Harper legend.
He’s a guy who underwent surgery to repair his broken thumb after he was hit by a pitch thrown June 25 by San Diego Padres starter Blake Snell. He returned two months later, just in time to help push the Phillies into the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and is now carrying the franchise on his back.
While the Phillies took advantage of the new collective bargaining agreement to add another wild card team in each league, no new rule helped them more than the National League adopting the DH rule. If Harper couldn’t be DH, he would be relegated to the bench, unable to play on the court until next season.
“I’ve always been strongly opposed to that,” Middleton said. “In March 2021, Dave [Dombrowski, president of baseball operations] asked me what I thought of the DH. I said to him, ‘Dave, I object. It’s part of the game. Pitchers bat. It’s part of the strategy of the game.”’
Dombrowski, trying to persuade Middleton to change his mind since the National League owners would have to endorse the DH, told him that two of their pitchers were hurting their backs during spring training just practicing batting.
“He said, ‘Maybe you should rethink your position?’ I said, ‘Really, that’s how they got hurt.’ So I said, ‘Okay, I’m in favor of the DH.’
“So I struck up a conversation for about four minutes.
“I think DH worked pretty well for us.”
Yes, as the entire city of Philadelphia and the sold-out crowds will tell you, this DH gig fits pretty well into their World Series title dreams.
“We’re all family here, man,” Harper said. “We all try to come here and play the best baseball we can knowing we have a whole city behind us. This whole town is so excited to be right now. We are delighted to play in front of them, to have this opportunity and to be there with them. …
“We know there will be 46,000 people here who will be screaming and screaming and going crazy.”
Who knows, the way Harper and the Phillies are hitting these days, the fun might just be getting started.
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