Bryce Harper was booed a little bit Thursday afternoon. Edgar Garcia was booed a lot when it appeared as if he might never get anyone out. After a while, it all became white noise born out of disgust over the way the Phillies were manhandled by the Milwaukee Brewers for three straight games at Citizens Bank Park.
The beatings finally ended with an 11-3 loss in the series finale. After taking the opener, the Phillies were outscored, 22-6, in the final three games and it left you wondering if they are ready to compete with baseball’s truly elite teams.
All the Phillies were willing to concede afterward was that the Brewers are really good.
“Yeah, that’s a good Milwaukee team,” Harper said after getting one of the Phillies’ four hits off Brewers starter Zach Davies. “They’re at where they’re at because of how they are and who they are. Tough series and that’s going to happen.”
Andrew McCutchen had a similar sentiment.
“The last three, they were better,” he said. “Nothing to cry over. We just have to show up ready to go tomorrow. We understand that we need to be on our ‘A’ game, do things the right way … to win against teams like the Brewers.”
It was nice that confidence remained high in the clubhouse, especially since it was being exuded from veterans such as Harper and McCutchen, guys who know what it takes to get through the grind and reach the postseason. That kind of presence was noticeably absent down the stretch a year ago when the Phillies endured a monstrous freefall.
Still, this is Philadelphia and these are the Phillies, so no one should be shocked if there is at least a whiff of skepticism in the air following three straight losses to a really good team.
“I think we’ve had some pretty good stretches lately playing some pretty good teams,” Harper said. “Any time you play a team in the NL East, you’ve got a good matchup. I think we’re one of the best divisions in baseball, so … I think we look forward to playing other divisions as well.”
The Phillies, 24-19 and still on top of the NL East, were 8-2 against teams with winning records before losing three straight to the Brewers. But 30 of their first 43 games were against teams that had losing records. A far more difficult stretch lies ahead and Harper is confident that you will like what you see from the Phillies.
“I think we’re a great team,” he said. “I think everybody knows that in this clubhouse. This is part of baseball. You’re going to go through series you don’t win and hopefully you win more series than you lose. We’re going to be just fine.”
Harper would immediately instill more outside confidence if he would start to raise his batting average, which did tick up one point to .221 with his single in the series finale. Manager Gabe Kapler tried to kickstart both Harper and the struggling offense by batting the right fielder second in the series finale. It did little to help the overall offense, which managed just four earned runs in the final three games against the Brewers.
Despite the lowest average of his career at this stage of a season, Harper’s honeymoon stage with Phillies fans is still mostly intact. One reason why is the way he plays the game. His defense has not impacted his offense and, in fact, his diving catch with the bases loaded was directly responsible for saving the Phillies’ only win over the Brewers during the first game of the four-game series.
It has also helped immensely that the Phillies have been winning. If they were the last-place Phillies instead of the first-place Phillies you have to believe the smattering of boos directed at Harper so far would have been more frequent and intense. Harper has also helped his cause by saying the right things as he did again Thursday.
“I have to be better,” he said. “If you would have told me I’d be going through the same thing I was last year at the beginning of this season I would have told you that you were crazy. But that’s part of the game, part of baseball. That’s the beautiful thing about baseball — we get to come back and play another game tomorrow.”