LOS ANGELES — An already difficult road trip could become even more challenging if the Phillies have to play this week without Bryce Harper and Jean Segura.
Harper left Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the Dodgers with tightness in his lower back. He appeared to aggravate his back when he swung and missed on a fastball in the fourth inning. Joe Girardi said Harper is day to day, but it seems unlikely he’ll play Wednesday.
Segura’s injury may be significant. The team’s leading hitter left in the ninth after he beat out an infield grounder to extend the game. Segura was safe at first on an error by Albert Pujols and immediately limped off the field.
”I don’t want to say pretty bad,” Girardi said when asked to describe Segura’s groin injury. “But my guess is he’s not a player for us tomorrow. Until we have the doctors examine him. Jean’s a tough kid. He doesn’t come out too often.”
The Phillies started their six-game road trip with two losses at Dodger Stadium, stalling any momentum created from their two-game sweep last weekend of the Yankees. They face Clayton Kershaw in Wednesday’s series finale before starting a three-game series in San Francisco against the National League’s best team. The road is only getting tougher.
“Let’s hope Jean’s OK,” Rhys Hoskins said. “Obviously, he had to be taken out of the game. He’s kind of been the ignition on this engine the last couple weeks, right? He’s been all over the field. He’s been playing every day. He’s been making a ton of great defensive plays. He’s been on base a lot. If he’s out we’re definitely going to miss him, but like I talked about a couple weeks ago, guys have to step up. Luke was in there tonight. I’m sure he’ll have to step up and play a little bit more if Jean is out. The rest of the lineup, right? That’s what we did the last couple of weeks. That’s what we’ll have to do now and if it happens again that’s what we’ll have to do. Guys will have to step up and keep this thing afloat while guys get healthy.”
Harper’s back bothered him so much last season that he could not throw a baseball in September, and it flared up again earlier this year.
Harper took six weeks off after the end of last season to rest his back and then worked five days a week with a personal trainer. He retaught himself how to throw from the outfield, believing his throwing motion was ailing his back.
Manager Joe Girardi said in April after Harper missed a game with back tightness that “once you have some back issues, you’re always a little bit concerned about it.” That concern returned Tuesday when Harper took a long walk around the batter’s box after the swing-and-miss, finished the at-bat, and was removed from the game.
“There’s not a whole lot I can do. You try to keep him healthy,” Girardi said. “He works hard on it every day. He does his maintenance program. He does his treatment. Sometimes … I remember for myself, I could bend down and pick something up and it would grab. No rhyme or reason. So you just have to do the best you can.”
Ranger Suarez had been excellent this season working as a long reliever, but the left-hander’s transition to the late innings did not go smoothly on Tuesday.
Mookie Betts crushed Suarez’ 0-2 change-up over the center-field fence in the seventh to give the Dodgers a one-run lead. Suarez had allowed just one earned run in his first 12 appearances, pitching well enough for Girardi to trust him with crucial outs. It didn’t work on Tuesday.
“I always think it’s a learning experience for guys. Especially when they haven’t done it,” Girardi said, “Ranger’s been more of a left-handed specialist early on. He’s been a starter. But he hasn’t necessarily ever been a real high-leverage guy. But I still feel really good about him.”
An inning later, Betts drove in another run with a single off Archie Bradley.
The Phillies replaced Harper in the batting order with Ronald Torreyes, who hit cleanup. The Phillies tied the game in the fifth with a two-run rally, but the Dodgers were able to intentionally walk J.T. Realmuto and face Torreyes instead of Harper. He popped up to end the inning, leaving two runners on.
Harper’s spot came up again in the eighth when Travis Jankowski — who was pinch-hitting for Torreyes — led off with a walk. Jankowski stole second and Rhys Hoskins walked, but the Phillies let right-hander Phil Bickford off the hook.
Andrew McCutchen and Alec Bohm struck out before Luke Williams grounded out to third base. The rally was quickly extinguished. The Phillies went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position after going 1-for-11 on Monday.
“I mean, that’s the difference in the two games. They got the big hits,” Girardi said. “… Hitting it with runners in scoring position usually is the difference in the game.”
Rhys Hoskins came a few feet from snapping his wicked funk when his line drive fell just foul in the fourth inning. The at-bat continued and Hoskins grounded out as he went 0-for-3 with a walk. He is hitless in his last 33 at-bats, which is the longest streak by a Phillies’ player since Ryan Howard went 0-for-35 in 2015.
“Honestly, there hasn’t been a lot of different feel from before the last couple weeks. I’ve swung a little bit more out of the zone. That’s how it goes,” Hoskins said. “I’ve talked about it pitches in the zone that I’m getting. I’m either swinging and missing or fouling back. You can’t do that in this league. The guys on the mound get paid to get guys out, too. If you get behind, they make pitches and throw the pitches they want to. It’s a tough league to hit in. Yeah, sometimes you miss pitches and you get in these little funks and that’s how it goes, but there’s always the end. And I always feel like when I come to the ballpark every day that the end of this is near or it’s here. That’s where I’m at.”
Williams became just the fourth player in Phillies history to play shortstop and right field in the same game.
He started at short and moved to right when Harper exited. Williams then returned to shortstop when Jankowski entered.
Williams singled in the second inning and scored a run in the fifth after reaching on a throwing error. Williams, who grew up in nearby Dana Point, had a large group of family and friends in the stands for the second straight night.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Williams said before the game. “The whole two weeks has been a crazy ride. To be able to come home to California and play in front of family and friends is pretty special, especially because I wouldn’t be here without a lot of them.”
Dodger Stadium opened at full capacity for the first time this season and drew the largest crowd (52,078) for a professional sports league — which the Dodgers said excludes racing events like the Indy 500 — in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic. It was loud.
“It was really, really fun. It was awesome,” Hoskins said. “The weekend back home against the Yankees was incredible. It had been so long you almost forgot what that energy and that atmosphere was like. I think it kind of goes without saying that you’re going to get that every time you play out here in LA. It was great to see people back in the stands and having a great time. Obviously, it was really loud.”
Zack Wheeler starts Wednesday night against Clayton Kershaw. Wheeler has been one of the National League’s best pitchers this season and a matchup vs. Kershaw should be a good one. The Phillies need him to carry them to a needed win.