Bryce Harper, Phillies cruise past Blue Jays in 10-1 rout

Philadelphia Phillies

José Berríos entered Tuesday’s game with an MLB-leading 1.44 ERA. By the time the Blue Jays starter walked off the mound at Citizens Bank Park, that number had ballooned to 2.85, thanks to a Phillies lineup that did not even include Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, and Alec Bohm.

Turner is on the injured list with a left hamstring strain. Realmuto and Bohm had a scheduled day off. It didn’t matter. The Phillies crushed one of the best pitchers in the sport without them.

Berríos didn’t even make it through the fourth inning. The Phillies worked him to 90 pitches through 3⅔ innings, and when Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate, with the bases loaded, and connected with a slider/curveball down in the zone, it was over. The ball sailed past the right field wall. It was his third home run in as many days, and the eighth grand slam of his career.

“We just have too many good guys,” said starter Cristopher Sánchez. “The bench, everybody’s good. [It’s] like we have two lineups.”

Berríos exited the game after that, with his team down by eight runs en route to a 10-1 loss. It wasn’t a surprising outcome, given how Harper has been hitting of late. The Phillies have been waiting for their first baseman to get hot, and it appears he has. Harper went 3-for-3 on Tuesday night, and is slashing .381/.567/.810 over his last seven games with 10 RBIs.

» READ MORE: Phillies utility player Whit Merrifield is ready to ‘pick up some slack’ during Trea Turner’s absence

After he trotted around the bases, Harper greeted his teammates in the dugout. Kody Clemens was waiting for him at the very end. They gave each other a hug and shared a laugh. Clemens, who was recalled from Lehigh Valley on May 4, was a single and double away from the cycle. Of the 10 runs the Phillies scored on Tuesday night, Clemens drove in four, with a two-run home run in the second, an RBI triple in the fourth, and an RBI groundout in the eighth.

It is often difficult for a hitter to produce immediately when he’s shuffling between triple A and the big leagues, but Clemens has found a way. He hit a home run in his first big league game of the season on April 22, was sent down to triple A, and hit another on Tuesday night. Part of this is feeling more comfortable around the team, but he has also benefited from some work he did with hitting coach Kevin Long over the winter.

“Just trying to see the ball,” Clemens said in late April. “Start my load earlier. Be quiet with my leg kick or step or whatever you want to call it. See the ball and have good plate discipline. And try to put a good swing when the ball is in the zone. Being confident and staying with my plan.

“We talked about minimizing some things. Just to make my swing and stance more simple. It wasn’t anything major. But just kind of cleaning up some things and making sure I’m ready to hit.”

Harper has developed an affinity for Clemens, who the Phillies acquired via trade in January of 2023. Last year, the utility man began swinging Harper and Castellanos’ bats in the cage, just to see how each bat felt. He liked Harper’s bat, and decided to order some of his own.

When Clemens was called up on May 4, Harper made sure a fresh batch was waiting for him.

“He gave me a couple of bats, and actually, that was my first swing with it tonight,” Clemens said. “He’s the man.”

Added Harper: “He’s a stud. Any time he gets up here, he’s just another ballplayer coming up and playing the game. He has great at-bats; professional at-bats. For him to be able to come up, go down, come up again, and do what he does, [with the] same mindset. I mean, he had a great spring, right? Could have probably made any team out of camp and just got the short end of the stick. And then comes up and does what he does in Cincinnati and then [tonight]. It’s just impressive.”

» READ MORE: Is Bryson Stott now the Phillies’ regular shortstop while Trea Turner is out? He’s flexible.

It was a good night for the Phillies, all around. Utility man Whit Merrifield and right fielder Nick Castellanos both recorded a hit and have been quietly heating up. Castellanos’ hit was a two-out RBI double in the first to put the Phillies on the board. Bryson Stott went 2-for-4 and scored two runs, and Edmundo Sosa hit an RBI triple in the eighth.

Phillies starter Sánchez struggled with his command and control early, but found his grove as he went deeper into the game. He finished his night at seven innings, allowing one run on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

“His changeup wasn’t cutting, it was diving,” said manager Rob Thomson. “It was getting swings and misses. He threw it a lot. He relied up on it a lot. And he threw strikes — that’s what he’s got to do. Sinker was good. He threw his breaking ball enough to keep people off it. He was good.”

Right-handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull pitched the last two innings, allowing one walk. It was Turnbull’s first appearance out of the bullpen for the Phillies, after making six starts in April/May while Taijuan Walker was on the injured list. He is still adjusting to the uptick he now sees in his velocity, and the limited time he has to prepare, but Turnbull is confident he’ll figure it out soon.

He’s enjoying this 26-11 season, and wants to do his part.

“I’m not super sure [how they’re going to use me],” Turnbull said. “I think we’re all kind of figuring it out as we go. Like I’ve said, I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity. Having a lot of fun being on a winning team. I said, ‘Give me the ball, and I’ll go out there and get outs, and do the best I can.’ It’s still really fun to win. Whatever that looks like.”

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