PHILADELPHIA – Bryce Harper hit a two-run single in his first at-bat after a 52-game absence due to a broken left thumb, helping the streaking Philadelphia Phillies to a 7-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
Harper grounded out twice and lined out sharply in his three other at-bats in his first action since being hit on the hand by San Diego Padres left-hander Blake Snell on June 25. The reigning NL MVP batted cleanup as the designated hitter and helped the Phillies win their fifth straight game.
“I’m just happy to be back, get in there and help this team win,” Harper said.
Philadelphia, which went 32-20 without Harper, began play in second place in the NL wild-card race.
“I’m just trying to come in here and not screw it up; they’re playing so well,” Harper said. “It’s been fun to be able to watch and even more fun to go out there and be around them.”
Rhys Hoskins singled, doubled and drove in a run for the Phillies.
Bryan Reynolds, Ben Gamel and Rodolfo Castro homered for the Pirates, who have lost six straight and 12 of 14. Pittsburgh dropped to 47-78.
Harper jogged out for warmups to loud cheers and “Let’s Go Harper!” chants 25 minutes before first pitch. The ovation from the announced crowd of 30,546 was deafening when Harper was introduced 20 minutes later. The cheers grew even louder, accompanied by a standing ovation and “M-V-P!” chants, when he stepped to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded in the first.
“I started laughing because it’s awesome,” Harper said of the reception. “I love those types of moments, I love those opportunities, I love jam-packed crowds and being able to play in front of 40,000 people. That’s what it’s all about.”
With a 2-2 count against Bryse Wilson (2-8), Harper lined a hard two-run single into right field.
“My teammates set me up for a perfect opportunity right there, and I was able to come through,” he said.
Harper went 5 for 8 with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs in a pair of rehab starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Phillies had planned to keep Harper in Triple-A through Saturday, but his return to the big leagues was moved up after his walk-off double for the IronPigs on Wednesday night.
“I just want to get back, I just want to play, I just want to help,” he said. “We have a team with an opportunity to go to the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs.”
The fans weren’t the only ones happy to see Harper back in Philadelphia. His wife, Kayla, posted a photo on social media of her seated at Citizens Bank Park wearing a shirt with multiple images of Harper on it. She captioned the post, “wearing my heart on my sleeve.”
Pirates manager Derek Shelton said Harper’s presence makes a good team even better.
“We’re talking about one of the best players in the game,” Shelton said. “Anytime you add a player of that caliber back to their lineup, it lengthens it out. He’s such a special hitter. He does a lot of different things. And when you put him there in the middle, it makes a really good lineup even better.”
Phillies starter Bailey Falter (2-3), filling in for injured right-hander Zack Wheeler, gave up three runs on five hits in six innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Brad Hand pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save.
Harper’s two-run single was part of Philadelphia’s four-run first that was helped by second baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes’ throwing error on Kyle Schwarber’s grounder to lead off the game. After Harper’s hit, J.T. Realmuto’s grounder and Nick Castellanos’ single scored two more runs.
Wilson didn’t return after the first after allowing four runs, three earned, on five hits.
Philadelphia went up 6-0 in the second on Hoskins’ RBI single, and he later scored in the frame when shortstop Newman mishandled Realmuto’s grounder.
“We didn’t play great defensively and put ourselves in a hole,” Shelton said. “Against a club like this, we cannot give away extra outs.”
Newman’s two-run homer in the fourth and solo shots by Castro in the fifth and Gamel in the seventh, both leading off the innings, pulled Pittsburgh within 6-4 before Bryson Stott’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.
“I give our guys credit to continue to go,” Shelton said.
FANS IN THE STANDS
With Harper back, the Phillies drew about 10,000 more fans than they averaged in their four-game home sweep of the Reds this week. They averaged 21,227 during that series.
BAT IN THE STANDS
Oneil Cruz’s bat slipped out of his hands and went flying into the stands after the Pittsburgh Pirates’ rookie struck out in the third inning. The lumber landed in Jen Mehall’s lap behind the Phillies dugout. Mehall, a Pirates fan, was thrilled to get the souvenir — especially after it dinged her in the leg and lip. An inning later, though, a Pirates official came to request the bat back and offered another one in a trade.
Mehall and her friend, Kathie Koller, who were in town from Reading to celebrate Koller’s birthday, didn’t want to give up their rare keepsake.
“We wanted to keep it, but security said we couldn’t,” said Mehall, who is originally from Western Pennsylvania.
Pirates: Rookie RHP Colin Holderman was placed on the 15-day IL with right shoulder soreness after giving up five runs on three hits without getting an out in his last start on Wednesday. RHP Yohan Ramirez was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to take Holderman’s place.
Phillies: CF Brandon Marsh (sprained right ankle) had three hits and drove in three runs in his second rehab start with Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday night. Marsh, who was injured on Aug. 16, could return to Philadelphia’s lineup on Saturday. ... Wheeler is expected to miss two starts with right forearm tendinitis.
Pirates RHP Tyler Beede (1-3, 4.13) opposes Phillies RHP Kyle Gibson (8-5, 4.30) on Saturday night in the second contest of the three-game set.
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