An October baby, Bryce Harper celebrated his 31st birthday on Monday by bashing a 420-foot home run on the first pitch he saw in the NL Championship Series. The solo shot in the first inning, one of three homers the Phillies hit on Monday, helped power the Phillies to a 5-3 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS.
Harper, who also walked, scored twice and knocked in two runs to send the Phillies to their 10th straight home playoff win against a National League team. He joined Willie Aikens, Evan Longoria and Kolten Wong as the only players to homer on their birthdays in the postseason with his blast off Arizona starter Zac Gallen.
The Phillies made the playoffs for the first time with Harper on the team last season, but his birthday fell on an off-day during the National League Division Series — so yesterday was the first time he got to celebrate on the field with Philadelphia. Obviously, the two-time NL MVP made the most of it.
That’s been the case for the bulk of Harper’s time in Philadelphia since coming over from the Washington Nationals. He’s now mashed 10 home runs in 24 postseason games with the Phillies. He’s also racked up 31 hits, scored 21 runs, recorded 20 RBI and walked 14 times to go along with a .365 batting average, .460 OBP and dominant 1.260 OPS. (With a career postseason OPS of 1.044, Harper only has two players ahead of him on MLB’s all-time list in that stat category: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, both at 1.214). Harper’s postseason production as a Phillie is a far cry from what he was able to accomplish for Washington, as he had just a .211 batting average with 16 hits, five homers, 10 RBIs and 12 runs scored in 19 games for the Nationals in the playoffs.
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Kyle Schwarber, who hit a home run just before Harper to help the Phillies notch their first multi-homer first inning in franchise postseason history, has been impressed by what he has seen from his teammate.
“This guy, he is looking for the moment, and he wants it,” Schwarber said. “He’s doing such an unbelievable job for us. Talking about when he is going up to the plate, you are just thinking that he is going to do something special every single time. Can that be unfair to have an expectation on a player? Sure. But that’s what everyone is thinking when you’re in the dugout. Man, what’s this guy going to do next?”
Game 2 of the series is Tuesday night when Arizona sends Merrill Kelly (1-0 postseason, 0.00 ERA) to the mound to oppose Philly’s Aaron Nola (2-0 postseason, 1.42 ERA).