NEW YORK – Bryce Harper as a one-man Phillies offense has been a popular, repeatable narrative over these last few weeks.
One problem: It isn’t quite true.
Jean Segura has been a worthy sidekick to the hottest hitter on the planet and the prohibitive favorite for the National League MVP award. And although Harper came through yet again here Saturday night, capping an eight-pitch at-bat with a two-run double for the winning margin in a 5-3 win over the New York Mets, Segura delivered two tone-setting swings.
Segura hit twin homers in the first and third innings against Mets starter Carlos Carrasco to provide Aaron Nola with a 2-0 lead in his first victory since July 25. The Phillies never trailed, won their fourth game in a row, and inched to one game of the first-place Atlanta Braves, who lost again in San Francisco.
“I think those two are among the league leaders in runs scored in the last couple weeks,” manager Joe Girardi said of Harper and Segura. “They’ve both played extremely well. Wherever [the offense] comes from, it doesn’t matter. But Jean has played extremely well this year.”
There’s no denying that the Phillies got here on Harper’s back. His numbers -- .315 average, 33 home runs, 1.058 OPS -- are eye-popping. Opponents continue to pitch to him, which makes little sense. He’s riding a 14-game hitting steak during which he’s 20-for-46 (.435) with 16 RBIs.
But the Phillies also know they will need other sources of offense to overcome the Braves and make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. That’s where Segura comes in. He’s quietly putting together a nice stretch drive in the midst of a solid overall season, and his presence in front of Harper in the lineup is nearly as critical as the protection behind him.
In his last 22 games, Segura is 32-for-94 (.340) with six home runs, a .943 on-base-plus-slugging, and only seven strikeouts. Harper, in turn, has gotten more chances to hit with at least one runner in scoring position. For much of the season, those opportunities have been scarce relative to most middle-of-the-order hitters.
“When you hit in front of Bryce, you’re going to get a lot of good pitches to hit,” Segura said. “When you get on base, it’s very, very helpful for us because he’s hot. The way he’s swinging the bat right now, the more people we put on base when he’s hitting is going to be a real, real benefit for us.”
And Segura saves his best for the Mets. Since the beginning of last season, he has seven homers (36.8% of his overall total) and 13 RBIs in 11 games against them.
Segura jumped on Carrasco’s fifth pitch of the game -- a first-pitch heater -- and lined it over the left-field fence. Two innings later, he made a carbon copy. After fouling off two fastballs, he hit a slider out to left field.
“[Friday] night, they pounded the zone right away, so today, I was going to attack the first pitch,” Segura said. “Today, I took advantage.”
Nola thrown a curve
Nola’s season has been marked by two recurring themes that often come in tandem: two-strike hits and one lousy inning.
After one of the former, Girardi didn’t risk the latter.
Nola breezed through five innings but gave up a one-out triple to Brandon Nimmo, an RBI groundout, and a two-out walk to Pete Alonso in the sixth. That was it for Nola, even though he threw only 96 pitches and twice struck out Michael Conforto, who is 7-for-45 (.156) with 19 strikeouts against him.
“I thought I was going to get Conforto there. I feel like I’ve fared out pretty well against him over the years,” Nola said. “But Alvy [reliever José Alvarado] came in and shut the door in that inning.”
Girardi noted that Nola’s curveball, a big pitch for him, looked like it “wasn’t quite the same in the sixth inning.”
“He seemed to lose his stuff a little bit,” Girardi said. “He was getting up around the 100-pitch mark, it’s a long year. I thought he pitched an outstanding game. I just thought he was running out of gas.”
It was the right move. But it also marked the fifth start in a row -- and the ninth start in the last 10 -- that Nola was unable to complete six innings.
Galvis in “a good spot”
Last month, Girardi attempted to ride a hot hand at third base by giving utilityman Ronald Torreyes a run of playing time. He’s doing the same now with Freddy Galvis, who rewarded the manager with an RBI double in the seventh inning to open a 3-1 lead.
Galvis, acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in a deadline trade, has had several big at-bats lately, from a sacrifice fly in the second inning here Friday night to a two-run homer Wednesday night at home against the Chicago Cubs.
“Freddy’s played extremely well,” Girardi said. “He just seems to be in a good spot right now. He looks more comfortable at third base for us, too.”
McCutchen leaves early
Left fielder Andrew McCutchen was shaken up on a diving catch to rob Jeff McNeil of a hit in the seventh inning. After drawing a walk in the eighth, McCutchen was replaced by a pinch-runner as a precaution, according to Girardi.
“He knocked the wind out of himself, and just for a second, I think he got a little whiplash,” Girardi said. “He’s OK. I’m just being cautious with him because we need him.”
Making them pay
For a change, it was the Phillies who took advantage of a defensive mistake.
The Mets had Odúbel Herrera picked off in the seventh inning, but first baseman Pete Alonso couldn’t handle a throw from catcher James McCann. Herrera slid back into the base safely, and two batters later, Harper lashed a two-run double down the right-field line for a 5-1 advantage.