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Sunday, July 3, 2022

‘One of a kind’: Harper unstoppable in LA

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Slugger on offensive tear in venue where he debuted a decade ago

6:29 AM UTC

LOS ANGELES — While the temperature in Los Angeles has been warmer than average this week, Bryce Harper has been even hotter, as he operates in an unquestioned comfort zone.

It makes sense really. After all, Harper made his Major League debut at Dodger Stadium just over 10 years ago, on April 28, 2012, when he got the call from the Nationals as a 19-year-old.

Maybe it is also the hot, dry air that has the Las Vegas-area native feeling spry enough to hit home runs in the first three games of the series. The most recent one came in the Phillies’ 8-3 victory over the Dodgers on Saturday night.

Yet it still seems hard to deny that his offensive prowess is not tied to something more immediate. Harper not only has flashed his power swing this week, he has gone 8-for-12 in the series with eight RBIs, all since learning the small tear in the UCL of his right elbow won’t cost him significant playing time. Seven of those hits were for extra bases.

“I think to be able to get some clarity on it has been huge and I know where it stands right now,” Harper said. “I’m just going to go with that until I know more.”

Yet from his corner locker deep beneath Dodger Stadium late Saturday night, Harper had an extended view of what really has him at peace.

“I think 11 years ago I made my debut here and it brings back a lot of memories, a lot of family and friends that were here. A lot of those people were here tonight,” Harper said. “[But] I think being able to … know where I am now, with [this] team and an organization, I’m just so happy to be a Phillie.”

Harper will not play in the outfield for at least a month, but he knows for sure that he will be the designated hitter. He will be out of Sunday’s series finale, though, and possibly at home Tuesday against the Padres after he gets a platelet-rich plasma injection in the area of the injury.

But as far as production from a single series goes, Harper has done his part and more already. His three-run home run in the third inning Saturday, off Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías, no less, staked the Phillies to a 6-1 lead.

“We just know [Urías] is really good,” Harper said. “He’s a 20-game winner for a reason last year and we’re just trying to get a jump on pitches in the zone, not let him get ahead of us. When he gets ahead of guys, he shuts the door on them.”

It meant that a third of his home runs on the season have come in the series, while the three in L.A. since Thursday have matched his total from his previous 23 games at baseball’s third oldest ballpark.

Add in home runs from Jean Segura, Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins on Saturday and it means the Phillies have 29 runs scored in the three games. The club’s previous high for runs in a three-game stretch at Dodger Stadium was 26 in June 1976.

The record for runs in a three-game stretch by a Dodgers opponent at Dodger Stadium is 31 by the San Francisco Giants in 2013.

“[Harper] is in a great spot and it’s great to see,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Obviously he’s so important to our offense, but we have other guys in good spots too, which is really helping out. Harp gets a three-run homer, Jean hits a three-run homer.”

Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner has spent a full three days watching his former Nationals teammate circle the bases. He knows what vintage Harper is all about.

“It feels like he’s the best player in the world,” Turner said. “I watched it for years over there [in Washington], but since he’s been over in Philly the last few years, you feel like he has a bad year, then you look up his numbers and he’s got a .900 OPS and he’s hitting really well.

“And then years, when it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s playing good,’ he wins the MVP. It’s kind of crazy — the numbers he can put up offensively are really special, and he’s one of a kind. It’s why he won the MVP last year, it’s why he’s doing what he’s doing.”

With two of the best offenses going at each other, runs most definitely were expected. What the Phillies are doing, though, couldn’t have been predicted.

“We haven’t seen a whole lot of runs like this until, really this week,” manager Joe Girardi said about not only his team, but about games all across the league. “You’ve noticed that it has gotten warmer, there have been more runs put on the board around baseball. … You don’t really expect it, but it happens.”

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