With seven games to go and two important bats missing, Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper must stay hot … and healthy
Bryce Harper started the 2020 season on a tear. After the first quarter of the shortened 60-game season, Harper was batting .347 with a .484 on-base percentage, and an otherworldly 1.157 OPS. Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Phillies stalled, going 6-9 in those 15 games.
The season has since unfolded, with the Phillies most recently winning three out of four against the Toronto Blue Jays. They have had their inconsistencies, but are in the thick of the National League playoff race.
At 27-26, the Phillies hold a 1/2-game lead for the first Wild Card spot, with the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, and San Francisco Giants closely behind.
Now, more than ever, the Phillies need Harper to stay hot. In his last 12 games, he has five doubles, four home runs, seven RBI, seven walks, and just eight strikeouts.
Unfortunately, the six-time All-Star has an apparent injury — lower back stiffness. Harper made an early exit from Sunday’s game after experiencing discomfort both at the plate and in the outfield. Phillies manager Joe Girardi told reporters that Harper will receive treatment and that there should be an update on his status ahead of Monday evening’s game.
Harper is not the only star battling an injury, however.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins, who had found his groove in the past month, is potentially done for the season, with the team mulling Tommy John surgery. Catcher J.T. Realmuto has missed 10 games with hip soreness; Girardi aimed for a Monday return, but recently announced that Realmuto would not catch then. Rather, he could potentially return as the designated hitter. Thankfully, Andrew Knapp has stepped up considerably in Realmuto’s absence.
Injuries have even reached the already weak Phillies pitching staff. Among them are Jake Arrieta and Spencer Howard. The rotation is down two starters; although both having disappointing seasons, they are two arms the Phillies relied on. The lineup is without two of its best hitters.
This is why you pay Harper $330 million. You need him when it matters most, and for the Phillies this year, it is the last stretch of the regular season to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Harper’s bat and leadership are crucial to bringing the Phillies back to the playoffs. Of course, anything can happen in these remaining seven games. But, Harper is certainly capable of carrying the offensive load, and if he does, it’ll most likely put his team in the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
The Phillies have four games against Harper’s old team, the Washington Nationals, and then a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays to cap off the regular season. These final seven games looked even more daunting before the season started, but luckily, the Nationals have been underwhelming this season.