Phillies, minus Bryce Harper, put it all together in an 8-5 win over Padres


Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber, left, gestures towards the outfield after hitting a three run home run against San Diego Padres' Nabil Crismatt as third base coach Dusty Wathan, background, looks on in the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 26, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)

SAN DIEGO — When Bryce Harper missed a few games at the end of the Dodgers series in Los Angeles in mid-May after receiving an injection to treat a torn ligament in his right elbow, Kyle Schwarber noticed something. The Phillies pushed. Hitters tried to be someone they weren’t – Bryce Harper – and they failed.

After winning their first three games in Los Angeles, the Phillies lost five of their next six games. Harper returned May 21, but Schwarber felt an interview was warranted.

“We’ve seen some achieve,” he said. “We’ve all talked about it. Let’s just take care of what’s ahead.”

Now the Phillies are in a familiar situation, but this time they’re collecting well. Just 14 innings have passed since Harper was hit in the hand with a 97 mph fastball that fractured his left thumb, but the Phillies have made the most of those innings. The offensive has scored 12 runs in that span. The bullpen only allowed one runner to get onto the base.

Since losing Harper indefinitely, the Phillies have won two straight games against a tough opponent in the Padres. They got entries from the whole lineup in their 8-5 win on Sunday. Nick Castellanos went 4-for-5 all singles. Schwarber did what Schwarber did in June – titanic explosions – and the young players like Bryson Stott, Garrett Stubbs, Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling – all produced runs.

The difference, according to Schwarber, is that the players aren’t trying to be Harper. They try to be themselves, which Schwarber thinks is more than good enough.

» READ MORE: Phillies’ Bryce Harper (thumb) is out indefinitely after being struck by bad luck in San Diego

“Bryce is his own type,” he said. “[injured second baseman Jean] Segura is his own type. Nobody can be her. We just have to be the best versions of ourselves and I think that’s the message we’re trying to get across, especially to some of the younger guys who haven’t seen boys go down. You don’t have to go out and do it all in one swing or defensive play. We just have to take one step at a time and focus on what’s in front of us instead of reaching for something more.

“We had Harp down a few games ago,” he added. “We had a little taste. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, of course we all want him in the line-up but we’ve let him down before. We’ve all been at the point where he’s not on the lineup and we have to go out and win a baseball game.

The next series will be a tough test of Schwarber’s theory. The Phillies face defending World Series champions Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals at home. After a series against Washington, they will head to St. Louis and then to Toronto. But for now, they’re enjoying a satisfying, if not bittersweet, streak in San Diego by winning three games out of four in hopes that it could be a harbinger of things to come.

After being diagnosed with an elbow injury, Harper was pulled from right field and began using the Phillies’ DH spot full-time. Before that, former manager Joe Girardi moved through various hitters, including Castellanos, who served as the Phillies’ DH seven times before Harper’s elbow.

Now that Harper is out indefinitely with another injury, that DH spot has opened up for interim manager Rob Thomson. Thomson said he would rotate batsmen, as Girardi did, and on Sunday he signed Castellanos to DH.

It went well. Castellanos, who entered Sunday’s game with .175 strokes for this road trip, went 4-for-5, all singles. It was his first multi-hit game since June 17 and his first four-hit game since August 21, 2019. Neither of them had hit particularly hard, but it was a promising sign from a player who has been losing lately looked.

Phillies starter Kyle Gibson entered Sunday’s game after failing to run or hit a batsman in his last two starts. On Sunday’s start, he walked three batters and batted two in just 2⅔ innings. He allowed five earned runs over that span. Almost half of his 61 pitches were balls (27).

Gibson’s start was his shortest as Phillie. Three of the four hits he allowed Sunday were hit at 100mph or harder.

“I spoke to Caleb about it [Cotham] a little bit,” Gibson said of the pitching coach. “I have to go back and see it. I don’t know if I had that many consistent moves…it wasn’t like the arm side was missing, the glove side was missing. The glove side was missing every time. So go back and watch the video and try to figure out if anything was going on mechanically. Because physically I felt great.

“There were flashes of some things that looked okay. I was in control of my slider maybe half the time and then that was gone too. It was a frustrating outing. But what a great job by Nellie [Nick Nelson] and Alvi [José Alvarado] and [Andrew] Bellatti and [Corey] Knebel came in and picked me up and the offense put up a great fight. Defense played great. Just a great comeback. We needed it.”

» READ MORE: Phillies prepare for games without Bryce Harper by moving Nick Castellanos to a vacant spot in batting order

As Sunday’s game began, the Phillies’ bullpen had allowed just one of 32 batters to reach base in their last four games. After Gibson was knocked out in the third inning on Sunday, the Auxiliary Corps conceded just one hit over 6⅓ innings – a double by Eric Hosmer ahead of Alvarado.

Bellatti earned the save, the first of his career. The 30-year-old right-hander has been an unexpected success story for the Phillies this year. At the start of Sunday’s game, he had a 35.1% strikeout rate, according to Statcast, which was 96th percentile among big league pitchers. He’s someone Thomson trusts in high-leverage situations, and with good reason. Bellatti had just one rocky performance this month – on June 19 in Washington – but otherwise he has yet to put on a deserved run in his eight other appearances.

“The guy was elite,” Knebel said of Bellatti. “He’s on a different level right now. He feels well. We must keep riding this man. He is special.

“He has the it factor. He walks in knowing there’s no one better out there than him. And you have to do that. I know he did really well going out there knowing that this hitter didn’t stand a chance. Attack them no matter what the count is. If he comes back, so what? I really enjoyed watching this guy compete.”

In the second inning, Schwarber hit an RBI double at 107.8 mph to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. In the seventh inning, he outdid himself, starting a 108.1 mph home run that covered 403 feet to hit three runs and give the Phillies a 6-5 lead. Schwarber has come on base in 30 straight games, hitting .276/.394/.644 in June.

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