September 21, 2023

Phillies handle business with Pirates as the homestand comes to a close



Despite getting the Sunday scaries and being shut out to end the series, only one would say that the Phillies ended the homestand on a low note out of spite. The Phillies followed a four-game sweep of the Reds by taking two of three from the Pirates, a team they swept earlier in the season. Needless to say, they handed business with their intrastate rivals quite well this season, as they went 6-1 in the two times they faced off.

Game summaries

Game one was not far short of a movie. With the bases loaded a nobody out, Bryce Harper stepped into the white chalk box at Citizens Bank Park for the first time in 71 days. With the crowd loudly and proudly on their feet, the reigning MVP delivered by shooting a single past Pirates’ first baseman Michael Chavis.

And from there, the tone was set.

J.T. Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, and Rhys Hoskins all helped the Phillies put up six runs in the first two innings, and Bryson Stott hit an RBI single to give the Phillies an insurance run for the ninth.

Bailey Falter did not have his best stuff, but he kept his fastballs in the strike zone and used his slider to get lefties to chase. Falter picked up his third quality start and his second win of the season in the Phils’ 7-4 win over the Pirates in the first of three from Philly.

Once again, the Phillies’ offense struck early and often in game two. J.T. Realmuto got the game started by clearing the bases with a double, and Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm helped add on in the second. An inning later, Nick Castellanos sent his thirteenth home run of the season into the right-centerfield stands.

Kyle Gibson, the Phils’ starter, earned his ninth win of the season as he pitched seven shutout innings over 102 pitches. He was relieved by Sam Coonrod, who eventually gave way to Nick Nelson to close out the win.

The Phillies have had their share of struggles against young pitchers in 2022, and Roansy Contreras added himself to that group after his performance in game three. Contreras struck out seven over five shutout innings and kept the Phillies off-kilter with the combination of his fastball and slider.

Noah Syndergaard was in control through the first five innings but was unable to escape the sixth-inning jam. After being pulled with two outs, Nick Nelson ended the threat.

The five-run deficit, though, was too large for the Phillies to come back from. The Pirates’ bullpen closed out the win to salvage the final game of three in Philadelphia.

Focused on the fundamentals

In game one, Bryce Harper hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in his first at-bat since coming off the injured list. It gave the Phillies an early lead, and it also marked the first time the Phillies got a hit with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Fittingly, this hit came in a series where the Phillies played one of their more fundamentally-sound series. They were strong defensively and didn’t leave as many runners on base as they did in some of their past series.

No errors were committed, and the Phillies’ offense was 8 for 28 with runners in scoring position. On the other hand, the Pirates made five errors through the three games, and the Phillies made sure to take advantage of all their mistakes.

And for a team that has an inconsistent offense, playing small ball can be an easy key to their success. Nick Castellanos was the only Phillie to leave the yard, but the Phillies still found ways to get runs on the board.

Harper’s return

It was highly anticipated, very exciting, and considered season-changing by many.

In game one, Bryce Harper made his return from the injured list two months after suffering a break in his thumb.

And he did not disappoint.

In his first at-bat, Harper singled to right field, giving the Phillies an early lead.

“It was great. I mean, just being back and just being with the guys, and, you know, in the Bank and in front of our fans, it’s just great,” Harper said after the game one victory.

“We’re going to be very, very scary in the postseason,” Harper added before his interview concluded.

Overall, Harper recorded three hits in ten at-bats out of the four-hole. He had a hit in each game, showing he’s healthy and physically ready to compete.

“I’m just trying to do what I can to help each night, and [I’m] just really excited to just be back.”

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