PHILADELPHIA — When Bryce Harper came to bat in the top of the 10th inning, his shadow cast long behind him three hours into a game his team somehow had not lost yet, a go-ahead home run was more than anyone could ask. He had homered in three straight games, five straight at Citizens Bank Park. He couldn’t do it again, could he?
He did, beating Jeanmar Gomez’s fastball and driving it out to right center — a low line drive, not the towering, majestic type he hit for his 100th home run. It was his fourth home run in four games, his sixth home run in six games at the Phillies’ ballpark. Ernie Banks is the only other opposing player to homer in six straight games in Philadelphia.
“Pretty good company,” his manager Dusty Baker said.
“I just wanna win,” said Harper, dismissive as usual of statistical achievements.
The ball bounced into a bullpen bathroom, as Harper’s 2016 average shot up to .359. He is now slugging .897, with an OPS of 1.356 — only two players, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, have finished a season with OPS numbers as high as that. Harper, of course, is a long way from finishing his season with such gaudy numbers. His six home runs are second in the majors to Rockies’ revelation Trevor Story. That .359 average is tied for 10th in the majors.
“This is what I heard about. I’d seen it a few times on TV, but what he’s doing is MVP, star stuff,” Baker said. “I’ve been fortunate to have some good players — play with them and play for me — and he’s certainly making his mark.”
Harper has hit his six home runs in 11 games, putting him on a pace for 88, though of course no one has ever hit more than 73. Eleven games, particularly when they come against the less experienced pitching staffs of Atanta and Philadelphia, are hardly enough to draw conclusions. But Harper has impressed so far, on a home run hot streak even he has never experienced.
“What he’s doing is remarkable,” Gio Gonzalez said. “…he’s picking up where he left off last year. He’s just been incredible. The way he’s swinging the bat, he’s so locked in. Let him be Bryce, you know? He knows best. He knows his body. He knows the way he is. The mentality he’s got out there, it’s unreal. It’s next-level stuff.”