Bryce Harper wouldn’t mind a day off. He has earned it, too, after playing all but five innings over 41 consecutive games for the Phillies since July 17. But every time he considers asking for a breather, he tells himself there will be time to rest when the season is over.
“I’ve thought many times about going in there [and saying], ‘Hey, maybe I can get one today and it’ll do me good,’ ” Harper said. “But every time I get to the ballpark and I’m like, ‘Never mind. I want to play.’ I want to keep going. I want to keep playing for my teammates, for Philadelphia, and all the fans.”
Nobody is playing any better right now. Harper has multiple hits in five of the last six games, including a two-run homer and a single in Monday night’s 7-4 win in Washington. Eight of Harper’s last 11 hits have been for extra bases. With one day left in the month, he’s batting .323 (30-for-93) and slugging .774 with a .444 on-base percentage, 10 doubles, one triple, 10 homers, and 23 RBIs in 27 games in August.
“He’s one of those guys you don’t necessarily go and get a soda or a hot dog when he comes up to hit,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You kind of stay in your chair, and you wait to see the at-bat. He’s meant so much to us. He’s grinded it out. He’s played every day, stolen bases, played good defense. He’s walked. He’s hit home runs. He’s driven in runs, big hits. He’s been special.”
So, yeah, who needs days off anyway?
“I know [Harper] is being pushed,” Girardi said. “But he wants to be pushed and he wants to be great and he wants to help us make the playoffs, so that’s what he’s doing.”
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Don’t look now — and Harper and Girardi insist that they aren’t — but the Phillies are suddenly in the wild-card race.
The Phillies will miss injured Hoskins for more than just his power bat, as Matt Breen explains in this story.
At long last, the Phillies seem to have found a productive leadoff hitter. His name, believe it or not, is Odúbel Herrera.
Tonight: Matt Moore faces Nationals’ Patrick Corbin, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: Aaron Nola starts finale in Washington, 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: The Phillies are off.
Friday: Kyle Gibson starts series opener in Miami, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: Ranger Suárez faces the Marlins, 6:10 p.m.
Stat of the day
Harper’s home run in the first inning marked his 100th at Nationals Park, where he played his home games from 2012 to 2018. He has eight homers in D.C. since 2019, the most by a visiting player in that time, and said he feels “like I’m the best player in the world” when he hits there.
But Harper isn’t the only Phillie who likes playing in Washington’s Navy Yard ballpark. Brad Miller went 3-for-3 with a homer Monday night and is 16-for-35 (.457) with four homers in 15 games there.
From the mailbag
Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.
Question: Scott, thanks for all the Phillies updates. Here’s my question: Given the record of mediocrity of this team for the past four to five years, do you think it’s safe to say that neither the previous manager nor the current manager was/is the problem? — Joseph D., via email
Answer: Thanks, Joseph. Yes, I do think that’s safe to say. But I’m also someone who believes that a manager — Charlie Manuel, Gabe Kapler, Joe Girardi, or any other — wins and loses about a handful of games each year with lineup decisions and in-game moves. To me, it’s really more about knowing which levers to pull to get the optimal performance from 26 players.
Look, I’m not going to tell you Girardi has had a great year. But he also didn’t build a roster that has largely been together for three years. Since the All-Star break in 2019 (Kapler’s last year here), the Phillies haven’t been more than seven games over .500 or five games under .500. The problem is bigger than the manager.