Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber, left, gestures towards the outfield after hitting a three run home run against San Diego Padres' Nabil Crismatt as third base coach Dusty Wathan, background, looks on in the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 26, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)

Phillies, minus Bryce Harper, put it all together in 8-5 win over Padres

SAN DIEGO — When Bryce Harper missed a few games at the end of the Dodgers series in Los Angeles in mid-May after getting an injection to treat the torn ligament in his right elbow, Kyle Schwarber noticed something. The Phillies were pressing. Hitters were trying to be someone they were not — Bryce Harper — and they were failing.

After winning the first three games in Los Angeles, the Phillies lost five of their next six games. Harper returned on May 21, but Schwarber felt that a conversation was warranted.

“We saw some reaching,” he said. “We all talked about it. Let’s just take care of what’s in front of us.”

Now the Phillies find themselves in a familiar situation, but this time, they are rallying nicely. Only 14 innings have passed since Harper was hit on the hand with a 97 mph fastball that fractured his left thumb, but the Phillies have made the most of those innings. The offense has scored 12 runs over that span. The bullpen has only allowed one runner to get on base.

Since losing Harper indefinitely, the Phillies have won two straight games against a tough opponent in the Padres. In their 8-5 win on Sunday, they got contributions from all over the lineup. Nick Castellanos went 4-for-5all singles. Schwarber did what Schwarber does in June — hit titanic blasts — and the young players, like Bryson Stott, Garrett Stubbs, Alec Bohm, and Matt Vierling — all produced runs.

The difference, according to Schwarber, is that players aren’t trying to be Harper. They are trying to be themselves, which Schwarber believes is more than good enough.

» READ MORE: Phillies’ Bryce Harper (thumb) out indefinitely after being hit by pitch in San Diego

“Bryce is his own guy,” he said. “[injured second baseman Jean] Segura is his own guy. No one can be them. We just have to be the best versions of ourselves and I think that’s the message we’re trying to relay, especially to some of the younger guys, who haven’t seen guys go down before. They don’t have to go out there and do it all in one swing or in one defensive play. We just have to take it a step at a time and focus on what’s in front of us at a moment, rather than reach for something more.

“We’ve had Harp down a couple of games before,” he added. “We had a little taste of it. Not saying that’s a good thing, obviously we all want him in the lineup, but we’ve had him down before. We’ve all been in that spot where he’s not in the lineup and we have to go out and win a baseball game.”

The next few series will be a tough test for Schwarber’s theory. The Phillies will face the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals at home. After a series against Washington, they’ll hit the road for St. Louis, and then to Toronto. But for now, they’re savoring a satisfying, if not bittersweet, series win in San Diego by taking three of four games, hopeful that it could be a harbinger of things to come.

After Harper was diagnosed with the elbow injury, he was taken out of right field and began began using the Phillies’ DH spot full-time. Before that, former manager Joe Girardi was rotating through different hitters, including Castellanos, who served as the Phillies’ DH seven times before Harper’s elbow.

Now that Harper is out indefinitely with another injury, that DH spot has opened up for interim manager Rob Thomson. Thomson said he’ll rotate hitters through, like Girardi did, and on Sunday, he penciled in Castellanos at DH.

It went well. Castellanos, who entered Sunday’s game batting batting .175 for this road trip, went 4-for-5, all singles. It was his first multihit game since June 17, and his first four-hit game since Aug. 21, 2019. None of them was particularly hard hit, but it was a promising sign from a player who has looked lost of late.

Phillies starter Kyle Gibson entered Sunday’s game having not walked or hit a batter in his previous two starts. In his start on Sunday, he walked three batters and hit two in just 2⅔ innings. He allowed five earned runs over that span. Nearly half of his 61 pitches were balls (27).

Gibson’s start was his shortest as a Phillie. Three of the four hits he allowed on Sunday were hit 100 mph or harder.

“I was talking about it with Caleb [Cotham] a little bit,” Gibson said of the pitching coach. “I have to go back and watch it. I don’t know that I’ve had that many consistent yanks … it wasn’t like it was missing arm side, missing glove side. It was missing glove side every time. So, go back and watch the video and try to figure out if there was something mechanically going on. Because physically, I felt great.

“There were flashes of some stuff that looked okay. I had command of my slider for maybe half the time and then even that went away. It was a frustrating outing. But what a great job by Nellie [Nick Nelson] and Alvy [José Alvarado] and [Andrew] Bellatti and [Corey] Knebel coming in and picking me up, and the offense did a great job of battling back. Defense played awesome. Just a great comeback. We needed it.”

» READ MORE: Phillies brace for games without Bryce Harper by moving Nick Castellanos into vacant spot in batting order

Going into Sunday’s game, the Phillies’ bullpen had only allowed one of 32 batters to reach base over their past four games. After Gibson exited in the third inning on Sunday, the relief corps allowed only one hit — a double from Eric Hosmer off Alvarado — over 6⅓ innings.

Bellatti earned the save, the first of his career. The 30-year-old right-hander has been an unexpected success story for the Phillies this year. Entering Sunday’s game, he had a 35.1% strikeout rate, which ranked in the 96th percentile among big league pitchers, according to Statcast. He’s someone Thomson has come to trust in high-leverage situations, and for good reason. Bellatti has had only one rocky outing this month — June 19 in Washington — but otherwise has yet to allow an earned run in his eight other appearances.

“The guy has been elite,” Knebel said of Bellatti. “He’s on another level right now. He’s feeling good. We’ve got to keep riding that man. He’s special.

“He’s got the ‘it’ factor. He comes in and he knows that there’s no one better than him out there. And that’s what you’ve got to do. I know that he’s done a really good job of going out there and knowing that this hitter has no chance. Attacks them no matter what the count is. If he gets behind, so what? I’ve really enjoyed watching this guy compete.”

In the second inning, Schwarber hit an 107.8 mph RBI double to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. In the seventh inning, he one-upped himself, launching a 108.1 mph home run that traveled 403 feet to score three runs and give the Phillies a 6-5 lead. Schwarber has gotten on base in 30 straight games, and is hitting .276/.394/.644 in the month of June.

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