Phillies stave off SF Giants’ sweep after benches clear

SAN FRANCISCO — Exactly seven years since Hunter Strickland and Bryce Harper threw haymakers on Oracle Park’s infield grass, history nearly repeated itself Wednesday afternoon when another Giants pitcher, Kyle Harrison, attempted to throw inside to the Phillies’ hotheaded slugger.

Harrison brushed Harper back with consecutive fastballs during his at-bat in the fourth inning, and Harper responded to the second by calling time, locking eyes with the starting pitcher and chirping back at the mound. One thing led to the next, and the full complement of pitchers, position players and coaches from both sides piled onto the infield.

Some words, though no punches, were exchanged.

Unfortunately for the home team, the benches-clearing fracas amounted to the least of the fireworks with Harrison on the mound.

Tagging the 22-year-old left-hander for four runs on 12 hits, the Phillies handed the Giants a 6-1 loss and prevented them from completing their second series sweep of the season. It was only the Giants’ third loss in their past 13 games and the Phillies’ first win at Oracle Park since June 2021 — 10 meetings ago.

“Obviously things got heated, but really just trying to execute pitches — that’s all I was trying to do in that moment,” said Harrison, who was handed his first loss since April 3. The Giants had won his past eight starts.

After being held scoreless for nine innings only to win on a walkoff sacrifice fly Tuesday night, the Giants were kept out of the run column for eight innings by a combination of Phillies starter Christopher Sánchez and a trio of relievers, who limited them to six hits and faced the minimum from the start of the fifth inning until Wilmer Flores doubled with one out in the ninth and came around to score on a bloop into right field from Heliot Ramos.

Harrison required a career-high 102 pitches to complete five innings, and the 12 hits he surrendered were also the most of his career. Since 2017, only one Giants starter had allowed as many hits in one game (Jakob Junis, at Colorado, Sept. 19, 2022).

“We needed some innings out of him today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Just not his best stuff. His command wasn’t great at times. And it’s a good-hitting team. You get behind in the count and have to throw some balls over the middle of the plate, typically they take advantage of that.”

Two big swings accounted for most of the damage, with Kyle Schwarber taking a two-strike fastball the other way and depositing it into the left-field bleachers for a leadoff home run and Nick Castellanos sneaking a two-run shot just over the glove of a leaping Ramos in left field to extend the Phillies’ advantage to 4-0 in the fifth inning.

Harrison also served up a pair of home runs in his most recent start at Citi Field, but prior to that had kept his opponents in the park for six straight outings. He threw 69 of his 102 pitches in the strike zone and attributed the Phillies’ hit parade to giving them too much over the plate and not putting them away when he got ahead in the count.

“Anytime you look up and see 12 hits, it’s not a good day,” Harrison said.

Finishing a triple away from the cycle, Castellanos caused the most trouble for Harrison and the Giants’ pitching staff while scoring two runs and driving in a pair. He went outside the strike zone to single for his first hit of the game in the second inning and came around to score after Harrison was called for a balk and allowed a two-out single to the No. 9 hitter, Christian Pache.

None of the dozen hits allowed by Harrison came in his three meetings with Harper, who only recorded his first hit of the series in the eighth inning to extend the Phillies’ lead to 6-0. After torching the Giants for a pair of homers, five RBIs and six runs scored over four games when the met earlier this month in Philadelphia, Harper went 1-for-10 and contributed only one run this series.

When he stepped to the plate for a third time with two down in the fourth inning, Harper had already struck out twice on a pair of Harrison heaters and taken out his frustration by slamming his bat in the dugout.

“It’s one thing to pitch in; it’s another when it’s up around the head,” Melvin said. “I think that’s where his frustration was.”

Unlike Strickland seven years ago, none of Harrison’s pitches made contact with Harper nor were thrown with the intent to do so. The former was determined by video review, which overturned an initial hit-by-pitch ruling on Harrison’s second inside fastball into a foul ball, while the latter could only be gleaned by the pair of low-and-away off-speed pitches Harrison used to finish the at-bat, coaxing a groundout to short, once the field was cleared.

“I mean, I would have gone in again,” Harrison said. “Why not? We’re trying to get guys out, and that’s a spot where I thought I could get him. It might have leaked a little too in, but I’m really focused on the baseball side and trying to execute. That’s it.”

Home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn issued warnings to both sides following the kerfuffle, which Harrison said was the first time he had ever been assessed one and “definitely” impacted his ability to attack hitters inside the remainder of his outing. He also confirmed that, at no level of baseball, had he ever been charged at by a batter, notable if only for the fact that high, arm-side misses have been reality for Harrison as long as he can remember.

“We’ve seen when he has his tough periods, it’s missing arm-side and typically with his heater,” Melvin said. “Now it’s about getting your breaking ball to the other side of the plate or getting your fastball on the other side of the plate, and he just couldn’t do it today.”

Some peacekeeping credit goes to Giants third base coach Matt Williams, who managed Harper in Washington for two seasons and was in the middle of the action helping cooler heads prevail this time. When tempers last flared, Michael Morse suffered a concussion and never played another major-league game.

“He does know a lot of those guys; he knows Bryce, and I think (hitting coach) Pat (Burrell) does, too,” Melvin said. “You can understand some frustration. But we’re just trying to manage it so it doesn’t get out of hand.”


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