Bryce Harper Dishes on Keys to Early Success for Philadelphia Phillies

With the Philadelphia Phillies on a historic roll to start the season, Bryce Harper offers a surprising reason for the early success.

Bryce Harper
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Bryce Harper #3 and Bryson Stott #5 of the Philadelphia Phillies speak before playing against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park on September 26, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

DENVER — After a historic start to the season, the Philadelphia Phillies hit a slight road bump in the first game of a series at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies, especially without Bryce Harper in the lineup.

The 3-2 extra-inning defeat at the hands of the Rockies put a stop to what has been an eye-popping run for the Phillies, who were 29-6 between April 15 and Friday’s loss. That matched the best 35-game run in club history, with the previous time happening in 1892.

Include the 29-6 run before Monday’s win in Colorado into the previous 162 games for the Phillies and you’ll see a team that has posted a 103-59 record over that span with a plus-206 run differential. Those 103 wins, by the way, are the most of any MLB team during that time frame, one more than the Los Angeles Dodgers and the rival Atlanta Braves.

So what’s driving the success in the City of Brotherly Love?

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It’s easy to look at the star-studded lineup and see Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Trea Turner (on his way back to the team from a hamstring injury), J.T. Realmuto, along with plenty of other talent, on Rob Thomson’s card and see why the Phillies are dominating.

Look at a rotation that includes Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suarez and you will see even more reasons why Philadelphia is sitting atop the standings.

Harper, however, says there is a more underlying reason for Philadelphia’s success rather than just big names and contracts.

“I think Dombo (Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations for the Phillies) did a great job of securing our depth and really understanding what we needed as a team,” Harper offered before his Friday night was cut short by a first-inning ejection.

“He found value in a lot of areas and I think he did a great job of bringing the guys in there who we needed. Obviously he’s never done with getting guys and things like that, but we have a great group of talent in here. I feel like he’ll round off the edges if he thinks he needs to.”

That depth includes Edmundo Sosa, who has taken over in the majority of games at shortstop in Turner’s absence and responded with a .323/.417/.548 slash line in 73 plate appearances.

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Add in Kody Clemens and his .290/.313/.742 slash line in limited playing time (32 plate appearances) and the Phillies have depth that is performing this season after being in the bench mix for multiple campaigns.

“Obviously depth is huge in a team and I think we’ve done a great job of compiling that,” Harper said. “I stated a couple of years ago that we need our young guys to be good. You can’t always go out and continue to spend and do all those things. Our owner does a great job of letting Dombrowski do his job and we’re very fortunate in having John Middleton at the top for us.

“I think we’ve done a really good job of just finding pieces where needed and letting our guys play. So we’ve had a lot of really good ball play this year with Patches (Cristian Pache) and Klemens coming up and doing his job. They’ve been really good.”

That depth was tested early on Friday night as Harper was ejected in the top of the first after striking out on three pitches.

With his early exit, the Phillies lost one of their lineup’s major cogs. Sosa, however, was part of the answer for Philadelphia, blasting his third home run of the season over the left field wall in the fifth inning.

Thomson agrees that depth is a key, but adds that having that depth for continuous seasons is making a difference in 2024 as well. A look down the Phillies roster from 2023 to 2024 reveals the loss of Craig Kimbrel and the swap of Jake Cave (traded to the Rockies this offseason) for Whit Merrifield (signed to a one-year, $8 million deal) among other minor transactions.

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“These guys know how to play together,” Thomson said. “They know each other and they like each other and bumping around each other. They work well together, so it’s good.”

And what little new blood might be on the Phillies roster is providing a balance for those veterans who have seen the last two offseasons end with deep postseason runs but no World Series title.

“A lot of guys were disappointed the last couple of years,” Thomson said. “So they came in motivated and the new guys that we brought in have fallen right into place. I think guys are excited to come to the ballpark every day. They prepare, compete, have fun and play the game. That’s what they love to do.”

“Our young guys are hungry to play,” Harper added. “I think that’s huge for us. We have a lot of guys in here that have played for a long time, but having the young guys that we have keeps us loose and keeps us having fun.

“It’s been fun. I think, as a group, we just have that mentality and we love to play the game. We love going out there and winning ballgames and playing, and we have such a great fan base that shows up for us with 45,000-plus a night and that always helps. This group is just a family in here and we have a really good, really good confidence about us coming in each day. You win games and sometimes you lose games and you just got to come back the next day, flush it as quick as possible. I think we do a good job of that.”