OK, how about that for Manuel Magic?
Trailing by four runs in the ninth inning last night, the Phillies scored six runs — punctuated by Bryce Harper’s walkoff grand slam — in a 7-5 shocker that absolutely had to be seen to be believed and completed a sweep of the Chicago Cubs. Harper sprinted around the bases, high-stepping slightly up the third-base line, and charged ahead like a battering ram into a mob of waiting teammates.
And if you didn’t think the Phillies could top their 11-run, three-homer outburst Wednesday night in Charlie Manuel’s first game as interim hitting coach, well, Harper topped it all right — by 413 feet, in fact, and almost into the third deck in right field.
The Phillies have scored 18 runs in 17 innings since Manuel’s return after scoring a total of 17 runs in deposed hitting coach John Mallee’s final five games. Coincidence? Probably.
Call it whatever you want, though — there does seem to be something to this whole Manuel Magic thing. It’s clearly hittin’ season again at Citizens Bank Park, and the Phillies are hoping it will carry them back to the postseason, too.
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Remember how Manny Machado was greeted the last time he visited Citizens Bank Park?
First, he was stopped on the Pattison Avenue sidewalk by a construction worker who advised him to “do the right thing and sign” with the Phillies. Then, as Machado tugged on a locked front door, smiling Phillies general manager Matt Klentak opened it.
“Hey, Manny,” Klentak said. “What’s up? C’mon in.”
That was last Dec. 20, and the Phillies were in full-on recruiting mode. They hosted Machado for four hours at the ballpark, then took the free-agent infielder out for a fancy dinner. They wanted him in red pinstripes. Badly.
Two months later, Machado signed with the San Diego Padres for 10 years, $300 million.
How’s that working out?
Not too bad, actually, for the Phillies. Instead of Machado, they landed Bryce Harper for 13 years and $330 million. And although Harper has not yet put up the video-game numbers that most people expected from him in Citizens Bank Park, he has five homers in his last six games, 25 homers in all.
Machado, who leads the Padres into town for a three-game series beginning tonight, has 26 homers. But Harper has him beat in many other offensive categories, including doubles (30 to 16), on-base percentage (.374 to .334), slugging (.490 to .475), OPS (.864 to .809), and runs batted in (87 to 70). Machado has been worth 2.5 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs. Entering last night, Harper was worth 2.8.
Third base remains a position of need for the Phillies. Maikel Franco is back in triple A, and Phillies third basemen rank 22nd in baseball with a .723 OPS. But while Machado would’ve addressed that deficiency, it’s difficult, particularly after last night’s grand slam heard ‘round baseball, to imagine the Phillies’ being better off with him over Harper.
“That’s why you sign one of the best players in baseball," Kapler said last night. “That’s why you spend so much time and energy trying to get him to come to Philadelphia.”
Were you watching the Eagles’ preseason game during the ninth inning last night? It’s OK. Re-live the wild and crazy ninth inning right here.
Nine years before he made his Phillies debut, Logan Morrison achieved a level of adoration that isn’t often bestowed upon visiting players, especially in Philadelphia. Matt Breen has an awesome story on Morrison’s unique history with the fans here.
Jared Hughes is an interesting waiver pickup for the Phillies. Of the 127 relievers who have worked at least 200 innings since 2014, Hughes has the ninth-best ERA (2.41) behind only Zack Britton, Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel and Mark Melancon.
Tonight: Vince Velasquez vs. Chris Paddack in series opener vs. Padres, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Zach Eflin returns to Phillies rotation, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Jason Vargas vs. Padres’ Joey Lucchesi in battle of lefties, 1:05 p.m.
Monday: Day off for Phillies
Tuesday: Aaron Nola opens two-game series at Fenway Park, 7:10 p.m.
If you guessed that Bryce Harper couldn’t possibly circle the bases any faster after his grand slam last night, guess again.
According to Statcast, Harper went from home to home in 19.27 seconds, including a nearly 4-second pause in which he watched the ball soar into the right-field seats. It took him only 11.25 seconds to go from first to home.
Nevertheless, it’s at least the second-fastest home-run trot of his career. According to Tater Trot Tracker, Harper lapped the bases in 16.2 seconds on Aug. 30, 2012, the ninth-fastest non-inside-the-park homer trot since the start of the 2010 season.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Answer: Thanks, Rick, for the question. For the record, you submitted this about two hours before last night’s game ended. Grand slam or not, my answer would have been the same: No, the Phillies don’t have any regrets at all about signing Bryce Harper.
For one thing, with 18 home games left, they already have exceeded last year’s attendance total. On an average basis, they are up more than 8,000 fans per game. Harper has delivered at the box office, if not always at the plate.