NEW YORK -- Bryce Harper’s right hand was sore enough to keep him from playing Saturday night, and the Phillies were unsure if the star outfielder would be able to play Sunday as they cling to their slim playoff chances.
Harper was hit on the right hand Friday night by a 92-mph sinker from Mets left-hander Steven Matz. His X-rays were negative, and the Phillies remained confident that Harper suffered only a bruise. He was unable to grip a bat Friday night, woke up sore Saturday, and did some hand exercises when he arrived at Citi Field.
“I'll be fine,” Harper said.
The Phillies entered Saturday four games behind the Cubs for the National League’s second wild card. They were tied with the Brewers and Mets but trailed the red-hot Diamondbacks by 1½ games.
The Phillies are no longer chasing just one team. Reaching the playoffs appears more difficult by the day, and it will be even more challenging if Harper misses more time.
“It [stinks]. You never want to get hit at any period of the season but especially now,” Harper said. “We’re at a place now where we’ve got to win games. Really tough to take a day [off], but I need to do what I need to do.”
The Phillies will face Noah Syndergaard on Sunday before returning home Monday to open a six-game homestand against the Braves and Red Sox. They then travel to Cleveland, Atlanta, and Washington for a daunting 11-game road trip. The final stretch of the season is already a tall task, but it becomes even steeper if Harper is not in the lineup.
“We have a chance,” Harper said. “Just have to keep playing and trying to win games. That's all you can do. We're not really looking around the league or at teams winning or losing. We have to take care of ourselves.”
The Phillies seemed to stall Friday night as they appeared to do anything they could to provide extra time for Hector Neris to get ready in the bullpen. J.T. Realmuto made a mound visit. Gabe Kapler strolled to the mound, talked to Mike Morin, and finally called for Neris.
Yet Neris continued to throw his warm-up pitches in the eighth inning until an umpire walked to the warning track and peered into the bullpen. Neris entered, allowed two runs to break a tie game, and Kapler said after a 5-4 loss that Neris’ splitter did not have its usual action. But the manager said Neris had enough time to warm up, and he reaffirmed that Saturday.
“Hector had plenty of time to warm up, plenty of time to go through his normal routine, threw 20 pitches in the bullpen and had additional time,” Kapler said. “And he likes to go through a little ritual at the end, and that’s what took him time to come out of the pen. But he had plenty of time to warm up."
Vince Velasquez will start the series finale Sunday against Syndergaard. ... Realmuto tied Friday night’s eventual 5-4 loss with a two-run homer off Mets closer Edwin Diaz. It was the fifth time since 2017 that the Phillies tied the game with a homer in the ninth inning or later. Three of those five home runs have come against Diaz.