Bryce Harper, Phillies welcome Pirates while hunting playoffs


Bryce Harper continues to show why he’s the Philadelphia Phillies’ Most Valuable Player — and possibly the MVP of the National League as well.

Harper singled, walked twice, scored a run and threw out the potential game-tying run in Pedro Severino in the eighth inning to preserve a 4-3 Phillies win over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.

The Phillies (78-74) remain 2 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East and will look to gain more ground when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.

Harper is hitting .314 with 33 homers and 80 RBIs. He leads all of baseball in both slugging percentage (.621) and OPS (1.051).

“I think he’s had a complete season,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “The average, power, RBIs, walks, on-base, stolen bases, baserunning, defense. I know in Pittsburgh he had an interesting day (in right field), but you take that away and some of the plays that he’s made, it’s been a complete year. He’s done everything that you would ask from a right fielder.”

The Phillies struggled against the 104-loss Orioles, but still managed to win two of three to stay in playoff contention.

Philadelphia hasn’t reached the postseason since 2011.

“Baseball is never easy,” Jean Segura said in a postgame interview on NBC Sports Philadelphia. “We’re winning at the end of the day. That’s all that matters.”

The Phillies will hand the ball to Aaron Nola (8-8, 4.48 ERA). The right-hander is 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA in his five career starts against the Pirates, including a no-decision on July 31 when he allowed two runs and three hits in six innings.

While the Phillies look to be a better team on paper than the Pirates, nothing is guaranteed. Ever.

“We need all of them,” J.T. Realmuto said. “This late in the season, where we’re at, a few games behind the Braves, we can’t afford to lose two or three in a row anymore.”

The Pirates (57-94) had an unexpected day off Wednesday when their game against the Cincinnati Reds was postponed due to inclement weather.

Like the Orioles, the Pirates don’t have much to play for this season standings-wise. But the players on the field would disagree as they’re battling for a spot on the roster in 2022.

Yoshi Tsutsugo has taken advantage of added playing time with some solid at-bats in recent games.

“He continues to have consistent at-bats, consistent swings,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “And we feel good having him hit behind (the leadoff man) and in front of Bryan (Reynolds).”

Another example is Cole Tucker, who batted second in Tuesday’s 6-2 win over the Reds.

“Those results showed up, but it’s an everyday kind of work in progress of trying to find that, find my footing in the cage — no pun intended,” Tucker said. “The work is there. The results are getting there. Just trying to piece it together. Just trying to be productive and make it happen a little bit here down the stretch.”

“I think it’s just signs of Cole getting better,” Shelton added. “It’s very rewarding because I know he’s doing a lot of hard work in the cage.”

Rookie right-hander Connor Overton (0-0, 0.00) is scheduled to start for the Pirates. Overton, who has tossed 11 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out nine this season, has never faced the Phillies.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.