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Phillies embracing “next man up” mentality amid Harper’s absence, veterans in the clubhouse leading the way

The Philadelphia Phillies took three-of-four games in San Diego over the weekend, but lost the reigning National League MVP in the process. Blake Snell hit Bryce Harper in the hand with a 97 mph fastball, fracturing his left thumb in the process.

Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday that Harper “is expected to need surgery” to repair the fracture, a procedure wouldn’t end his season, but still keep him out of the Phillies lineup for at least two months. Even if Harper didn’t have surgery, he would likely be out 4-6 weeks minimum.

Obviously, losing Harper for any amount of time is a huge blow to the Philadelphia Phillies. On the year, they are 39-35, eight games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets and three games behind the Atlanta Braves, who they will open up a three game series with tonight at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies are currently two games out of the last NL Wild Card spot and while the season might feel like it just came to a crashing end, this lineup is still built for the playoffs. Veterans like Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, and Kyle Gibson know that this team still has a goal, and they need to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

According to Matt Gelb of The Athletic, multiple Phillies veterans sat at a high-top table in the clubhouse on Saturday night immediately following the game and just talked. They knew it was a rough night for the team, although they did come out with the win.

To make sure we’re all on the same page…so that potential panic just because we lost one of the best players in the game doesn’t spread through the clubhouse. That’s when things can spiral. It’s going to be hard. By no means is it going to be easy.

Rhys Hoskins

Spiraling after an injury is a common occurrence, especially if you lose a player that’s coming off his 2nd career MVP, and has better stats at this point of the season than he did last year. Harper slashed .318/.385/.599 over his first 64 games this season, crushing 15 HRs, 48 RBIs, a .985 OPS, and a 2.6 WAR. He, along with Paul Goldschmidt and Manny Machado, are the top three guys in the running for NL MVP right now, although Pete Alonso is not far behind.

Kyle Gibson preached one thing to the entire Phillies team…”We don’t need anybody to be Bryce. Nobody can be him. But we just need everybody to be themselves. We still have a really good team.”

Matt Vierling said the veterans handled the situation the best way possible, by not having a huge team meeting. “I think that says a lot. If we have a huge meeting and all this stuff, there’s panicking. Carry on. Move forward. This is a good team. I think that says a lot about the team. Pretty interesting thinking about it, you know?”

Sunday night’s win may have been the biggest win of the season. After a somber win on Saturday night, the Phillies team could’ve crumbled, given up, and came out flat on Sunday. Kyle Gibson didn’t have his stuff, but the bullpen made up for his struggles. Nick Nelson, Corey Knebel, Jose Alvarado, and Andrew Bellatti combined for 6.1 scoreless innings, with 5 strikeouts, and zero walks.

The Phillies went down 5-0 early, and for a team that averages just 3.27 runs without Bryce, compared to 4.78 with the MVP, they absolutely dominated the Padres pitching staff. Nick Castellanos had his first four-hit game as a Phillie, a hopeful spark for a hot remainder of the summer. Alec Bohm crushed a double, Schwarber had a 3-run bomb, Vierling had two hits, and Hoskins, Herrera, Stubbs, and Stott all tallied a hit as well, all leading the way to an 8-5 win.

Things will certainly not get easier for the Phillies heading into the All-Star break. They face off against the Braves starting tonight, with Zack Wheeler on the mound. They then welcome the 41-34 Cardinals, a team who currently holds a wild card spot, to town for three games, followed by three against the Nationals. They’ll square off against the Cardinals again following the Fourth of July weekend, then fly up to Canada to play the Blue Jays for two games.

That “next man up” mentality is going to play a big role in the Phillies’ success, especially with situations like the centerfield platoon. Castellanos will now move to DH, and the committee of Mickey Moniak, Odubel Herrera, and Matt Vierling will hold down center and right.

It’s the reality of the situation. You lose the MVP, the guy who is putting up MVP numbers again, and we don’t know the extent of it. But we all have to come together as a team.

Kyle Schwarber

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Phillies Writer for The Liberty Line

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