Bryce Harper’s slump is officially over.
The Phillies right-fielder, who went 3-for-4 with two walks, a solo homer and three runs in Philadelphia’s 12-6 win over the host Miami Marlins on Saturday night, could get about eight or so at-bats on Sunday as the teams play a doubleheader to continue a rare seven-game series.
It’s the first seven-game series for the Marlins, and it’s the first of such duration in 90 years for the Phillies. The set featured another doubleheader on Friday.
The series is tied 2-2, and Harper has been a focus of Marlins pitching.
Harper started this season hitting .343 with three doubles, one triple, seven homers, 19 RBIs and a 1.192 OPS in 22 games. But in his next 18 games, Harper hit just .136 with two doubles, no homers, two RBIs and a .503 OPS.
“He feels like he lets the team down when we don’t win and he doesn’t produce,” Phillies hitting coach Joe Dillon said of Harper, who signed a 13-year, $339 million contract in 2019. “He’s had a string of games like that recently, which everybody goes through.
“Harper is so competitive that he pushes the issue and expands the strike zone. I don’t care how talented you are. If you swing at balls in this league, you won’t be very successful.”
Miami’s hottest hitters include third baseman Brian Anderson and outfielder Lewis Brinson.
Anderson, who slugged a three-run homer on Saturday, hit .300 with a 1.062 OPS in July but slugged to a .213 batting average and a .718 OPS in August. This month, though, Anderson is back on track, batting .389 with a .922 OPS.
Brinson, who hit just .205 with a .589 OPS in August, is batting .316 with a 1.034 OPS in September.
But Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas, who leads the team with a .347 batting average, is questionable for Sunday due to an injury to his right middle finger. He tripped on his way out to start Saturday’s game, hurting his finger.
Sunday’s pitching matchups have yet to be fully announced, but the Phillies are set to throw right-hander Zach Eflin (2-1, 4.58 ERA) and could turn to right-hander Vince Velasquez (0-0, 5.85 ERA) for the other spot. Miami is set to counter with rookie right-hander Sixto Sanchez (2-1, 1.80 ERA) and could go to rookie right-hander Nick Neidert (0-0, 0.00 ERA) for the other start.
Eflin has just one quality start out of seven this year, but the Phillies are 6-1 when he pitches. He is also 5-2 with a 4.19 ERA in nine career starts against Miami.
Velasquez started against the Marlins on July 26, allowing four runs in three innings and escaping with a no-decision. He has no quality starts this year, and the Phillies are 0-6 when he pitches. For his career, Velasquez is 4-3 with a 4.64 ERA in 16 appearances against the Marlins.
Neidert made his major league debut on July 25, pitching 2 1/3 innings of one-hit and scoreless relief against the Phillies. He has not pitched since.
Sanchez, acquired by the Marlins in the J.T. Realmuto trade, has been a revelation in his four starts. He is on a roll with three straight quality starts, allowing just 15 hits, two walks and two runs in 20 innings, striking out 21 batters. He has never faced the Phillies.
It’s already been a big weekend for Sanchez, who on Friday was interviewed on MLB Network by his pitching idol, Pedro Martinez.
“When I was younger, I loved watching Pedro pitch,” Sanchez said of his fellow Dominican Republic native. “I wanted to be like him.”
–Field Level Media