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Bryce Harper smashes three home runs, powers Phillies past Reds, 9-4

Scott Lauber, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Baseball

PHILADELPHIA — It wasn’t a night fit for man or beast, to borrow a line from W.C. Fields.

Yet somehow it suited Bryce Harper.

Playing through steady rain, wearing a red ski mask as insulation from a whipping wind and stinging chill — and, oh yeah, 0 for 11 to begin the season — Harper hit solo homers in his first two at-bats Tuesday night, then banged a grand slam to power the Phillies’ 9-4 thumping of the Reds.

Hittin’ season? For Harper, sure.

It was too cold for a curtain call, even though many among the drenched 28,119 paying customers tried to coax Harper from the dugout with chants of “MVP! MVP!” But he did finish with six RBIs, a career high, in his second career three-homer game, nine years after the first (May 6, 2015, for the Nationals).

Harper became the 20th Phillies player to go deep three times in a game and the fifth in the last 25 years, joining Brad Miller (July 8, 2021), Jayson Werth (May 16, 2008), Ryan Howard (Sept. 3, 2006), and Mike Lieberthal (Aug. 10, 2002).

And while Harper provided the offense, the Phillies received nine solid innings from two unlikely pitching sources: fill-in No. 5 starter Spencer Turnbull and reliever Ricardo Pinto. The latter got called up earlier in the day and allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings in his first major league appearance since 2019.

If not for Harper, it might have gone down as the Ricardo Pinto Game.

With rain falling throughout the day and expected all night, officials from both teams met on the field at about 4:30 p.m. to make a determination. They agreed there would be a window to play the game.

And with more rain expected early Wednesday, the Phillies moved the start time of their series finale against the Reds to 4:05 p.m. It was initially scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

 

Given the uncertainty of being able to squeeze nine innings between the bands of rain, it was imperative to grab an early lead. With two out in the first inning, Harper fell into an 0-2 count against Reds starter Graham Ashcraft before crushing a center-cut cutter to straightaway center field and wiping the rain from his helmet as he circled the bases.

The Reds took advantage of a throwing error by shortstop Trea Turner, his second miscue in five games, and scored an unearned run against Turnbull in the third inning.

But Harper broke the tie on the first pitch of the fourth inning, jumping on a slider from Ashcraft and hitting it on a line into the right-field bleachers.

When Harper came to the plate in the seventh, the Phillies held a 4-1 lead. Facing lefty Brent Suter, he got a full-count sinker almost on his shoetop and hit it out to right-center field.

Harper nearly had an even bigger night. In his third at-bat, with a runner on first and nobody out, he drove the ball to center field and was robbed of extra bases on a diving catch by the Reds’ Will Benson.

Turnbull, forced into the rotation late in spring training when Taijuan Walker was diagnosed with a shoulder impingement, was solid for five walk-free innings. He allowed three hits and struck out seven batters before passing the baton to Pinto.

Pinto came up with the Phillies, teaming with Ranger Suárez as teenagers in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2012 and making 25 appearances in the majors in 2017. He hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2019 with the Rays and signed a minor league deal with the Phillies on Feb. 19.

But with the bullpen shorthanded because of early-season overuse, Pinto inherited a 2-1 lead, threw 73 pitches, and kept the game close until Harper’s slam and Brandon Marsh’s solo shot in the eighth inning broke it open.


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