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Bryce Harper says Phillies need to ‘take care of business’ vs. light schedule after falling out of 1st

The Phillies have the easiest remaining schedule in the majors, but Joe Girardi doesn't want to hear about that. "We have to grind out every game and try to win every game. That’s the bottom line."

Phillies, Bryce Harper looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pa. Thursday, August 12, 2021.
Phillies, Bryce Harper looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pa. Thursday, August 12, 2021.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

The Phillies’ time atop the National League East standings ended Sunday after 10 days, but there is hope as the team plays just eight of their next 28 games against teams with a winning record.

Just don’t tell Joe Girardi.

“You write up a lot of scripts on paper too and they don’t always come to fruition,” Girardi said after a 7-4 loss to the Reds. “I don’t really want to hear that. I don’t want our players to hear that. We have to grind out every game and try to win every game. That’s the bottom line. And if we do that, we’re going to be fine.”

The Phillies started a crucial nine-game homestand with an emphatic sweep of the Mets before dropping four of six against the Dodgers and Reds. They built an eight-game winning streak against struggling teams but crashed against strong competition.

“You don’t want to do that, of course,” Bryce Harper said. “You want to win every game possible to stay up there but we have a long ways to go. We just have to keep plugging along, keep doing our thing. We have a big trip out to the West Coast. A day off tomorrow is much needed and then Arizona, San Diego. Arizona, take care of business there, and then go into San Diego, that’s a tough fan base, tough team as well. Go into there on a weekend, the place is going to be rocking, so we better be ready.”

The Phillies open a three-game series on Tuesday in Arizona, who own the worst record in the majors. No team in baseball has a softer scheduler the rest of the way than the Phillies, who are 22-17 this season against the five National League teams -- Marlins, Nationals, Cubs, Pirates, and Rockies -- they’ve played who currently have a losing record. Based on winning percentage, the Mets have the sixth-toughest remaining schedule while Atlanta’s is only slightly more challenging than the Phils.

The Phillies, like Harper said, have to take care of business.

“We have to,” Harper said. “You know the Braves are going to keep going, they’re going to keep playing well. That’s the Braves. That’s their team. Same with the Mets. They’re going to keep playing well, also. We have to do the same. We have to keep winning games and doing our thing. Like I said before, it doesn’t matter what the other teams do. We have to keep winning games. If we don’t win, it doesn’t matter. Of course, you need a little bit of help here and there but you have to keep winning games and take care of business in the series.”

Eflin makes progress

Zach Eflin traveled with the Phillies to Arizona after completing two innings of live batting practice on Sunday morning, a key step in Eflin’s progress towards returning from the injured list. He threw 28 pitches over two simulated innings and felt fine. He’ll continue to build arm strength this week with the Phillies before likely being sent on a minor-league rehab assignment.

“Mission accomplished today,” said Eflin, who has been on the injured list since July 20 with patellar tendinitis in his right knee. “This was the biggest test we’ve had so far. I’ve thrown a couple bullpens just nice and easy but this was really stepping on the gas and trying it out and having competition in the box. It felt great. ... I felt really good out there today.”

Coonrod to start rehab

The back of the bullpen has been solid lately and it could receive another boost soon as Sam Coonrod seems to be a week away from returning.

The hard-throwing right-hander will start a rehab assignment on Tuesday night with triple-A Lehigh Valley. Coonrod, on the injured list with elbow discomfort, is then scheduled to make rehab appearances on Friday and Saturday. If all goes well, he could be in the bullpen Aug. 24 when the team returns from a six-game trip.

The Phils have found a successful late-inning formula with Hector Neris, Archie Bradley, and Ian Kennedy. Coonrod, who has not pitched since June 23, gives Girardi another option. His average four-seam fastball (98.7 mph) is the sixth-fastest in the majors this season.

“You always think you can help,” Coonrod said. “I’ll be happy to be used wherever. I’ll just be fired up to be out there again.”

Extra bases

Vince Velasquez (right middle-finger blister) will make a rehab assignment on Tuesday with low-A Clearwater. ... Chase Anderson was reinstated from the injured list before Sunday’s game. ... The Phillies are off Monday before playing Tuesday night in Arizona. Kyle Gibson will start for the Phillies.