Bryce Harper, Phillies deliver bold response to 'weak schedule' talk against champs

This wasn't just another series sweep for Harper and the Phillies.
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

It's no secret that the Philadelphia Phillies were crushed, shocked and dismayed that they didn't close the deal in last year's NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They were, as you recall, just one win away from returning to the World Series. Instead, it was the Diamondbacks who went on to face and lose against the Texas Rangers in the Fall Classic.

That obviously stuck with the Phillies coming into this season. It obviously stuck with Bryce Harper. Leading up to the three-game series with the defending champions this week, Harper repeatedly referred to the visiting team as the "World Champs" instead of Texas or the Rangers, according to Crossing Broad's Anthony SanFilippo.

Bryce Harper, Phillies deliver bold response to 'weak schedule' talk against champs

That's not nothing. Harper must have had this series circled, if not on a physical calendar, at least in his mind. It would be a test for this Phillies team that entered the series on Tuesday with an MLB-best 34-14 record — a record that has been continuously, to the point of exhaustion, been pointed out to have come against some less-than-stellar competition.

If it was a test, the Phillies came up with all the correct answers against a Rangers team that has had a sluggish start to the season. But they're still the "World Champs."

The Phillies now have an outrageous 37-14 record after taking all three against the defending champs.

They took the Tuesday opener 5-2. Harper went 2-for-3 with a 422-foot home run to straightaway center, a double and a walk.

Wednesday was marked by an 11-4 win in which the bats took advantage of four Rangers errors. Harper hit another home run, his team-leading 12th round-tripper, in that one as the Phillies surged to the best 50-game start in franchise history.

Thursday's 5-2 win in the finale was tight early, but the Phillies jumped on top thanks to Cristian Pache's two-run triple in the fourth. J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos each had solo home runs to help back a seven-inning, five-strikeout outing from Zack Wheeler.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Bryce Harper said after Wednesday's sweep-clinching win, per's Mark Feinsand. “You play a full season for a reason, so we just have to stay the course, stay confident and just keep doing our thing.”

It's been a wild ride for Phillies fans through eight weeks, watching their team break record after record on its historic pace steamrolling through the majors. It's probably not a surprise to the Phillies themselves. The talk all through spring training was finishing the job in the postseason.

But that meant getting off to a good start and winning in the regular season.

Check and check, so far.

"We’ve got to win more games," Harper said early on in training camp. "And understand this is a window that we got to win in, and our ownership deserves that, our fans deserve that, Dombrowski deserves that as well, and we [the players] do too. So, we have to go out there and play our game and play Phillie baseball, and we'll see what happens."

What's happening is that this team is showing that Phillie baseball is winning baseball.