PHILADELPHIA – With another episode of back stiffness, sizzling Bryce Harper was picked up for pub bully Brad Miller in the third inning of the Phillies’ 11-8 win over the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
Coincidentally, the Phils earned a double-header split when Miller scored a walk-off grand slam in the eighth inning.
They just don’t want to try that out too often.
“My back got a bit tight between games,” said Harper. “I just haven’t loosened up much.”
Harper assured that he will be ready to play in Pittsburgh on Friday night.
“I’ll be in there,” he said. “Yeah. I thought, ‘Better miss half a game and not two.'”
In the Phils’ 3-1 loss in Game 1, Harper went twice and hit a double, bringing his OPS to 0.943, the fifth best in baseball. Since the All-Star break, he has scored safely in 10 of his 12 games.
Not that it was planned, but Harper was pleased with the early move to right-field when Miller pushed the Phils to 51-51, 3½ games behind the first-placed Mets.
“I stood there and watched this,” said Harper. “Unbelievable. What a chance Mills had in this situation. The boys fought all day.”
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Originally planned to start Vince Velasquez in one of the games on Thursday, Joe Girardi brought in left-hander Cristopher Sanchez to give up “Bullpen Game” in Game 2. Velasquez will face the Pirates on Friday.
Girardi said it was okay to push Aaron Nola back one day to Saturday because the right-handed man threw 115 pitches on his last start.
Sanchez was useless, registered an out and gave up four well-deserved runs. Connor Brogdon and Brandon Kintzler also stuttered before Enyel De Los Santos, Hector Neris, JD Hammer and the eventual winner Ranger Suarez joined them.
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Rhys Hoskins, who scored his 23rd home run in the third inning, left Game 2 in the fifth inning.
“Rhys pinched his left groin somehow,” Girardi said. “There was an early dive and then, as he got out of the box, he felt it again. So we got him out. “
Hoskins and Harper are every day. Girardi: “I don’t know what that means tomorrow.”
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Miller’s Slam was the first career walk-off homer.
“Long day in the park,” said Miller. “We needed it. And just looking and seeing the guys go crazy, that’s my favorite part.”
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The Phillies fell behind in both games. By the second inning of Game 2, they were six runs behind.
At some point that puts pressure on a criminal offense.
Can it be too much after a while?
“I don’t necessarily have the feeling that players feel that,” said Girardi. “I still think the stress comes from trying to do well as an individual. Right?
“I’m not saying that selfishly. But we get paid for performance. I don’t necessarily think the player will say, ‘Oh, I don’t know’ at 3-0. If we want to catch up, I’ll give away my at-bat. ‘”
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In the first game, the Phils wasted another quality start from Zack Wheeler, who pitched the full seven innings and beat five.
However, Wheeler gave Yan Gomes a home run with two runs and the eighth inning, the difference in the game.
“The seventh is the ‘ninth'”, Wheeler admitted, “so it’s a big blow.”
When asked whether the Gomes sinker was where he wanted it, Wheeler replied: “It was exactly in the middle, so no.”
Wheeler’s full game was the third of his career and the second this season. He went against the Brewers the full nine in May and Miami in June 2014.
Wheeler’s record fell to 8-6.
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The double-header crowd of 19,219 players in Citizens Bank Park felt like they were watching Max Scherzer’s last Nationals game.
Known to be available ahead of Friday’s trading deadline and with Scouts hungry to see him recover from a triceps injury, the future Hall of Famer hit five, allowing three hits in six innings.
“I understand what’s going on and what it is,” he said. “In my career, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been through all the turmoil from now on. But today was the chance to be challenged, to block all the hustle and bustle and to win against a good Phillies line-up. “
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Andrew Knapp has been put on the paternity list and the catcher Rafael Marchan has been recalled from Lehigh Valley. Knapp is contractually entitled to up to three paid days during paternity leave.
Sanchez was added as the 27th eligible player for a double header.
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Odubel Herrera went 1 to 3 in the beginning and gave him 16 career goals against Scherzer. Only Nick Markakis (23) and Martin Prado (20) have had more.