After the eighth inning, I assumed this recap was going to be based around Charlie Manuel and how he might not be a magical elixir to cure the Phillies’ offensive woes. Thanks to Bryce Harper and company, I’ve had to make a bit of a pivot. Now, I’m just left wondering why Manuel didn’t start coaching the team before the ninth inning.
Charlie Manuel just knows how to coach hitters pic.twitter.com/59irXzyonI— Smarty Jones (@TheSmartyJones) August 15, 2019
For eight innings, the story of the game was Yu Darvish. The Cubs’ starter hasn’t lived up to expectations since signing as a free agent last season, but he was excellent on Thursday. He struck out 10 batters in his seven innings, and held the Phillies to a mere four base runners.
Yu Darvish has not issued a walk in four consecutive starts.— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 16, 2019
He is the first Cub since at least 1908 with 8+ strikeouts and no walks in four straight starts.
He was also the first Cub to do it in three straight. pic.twitter.com/W8KuPHcAtN
Drew Smyly was on the mound for the Phillies, and all of the “Cliff Lee 2.0” talk has faded over his past few starts. He gave up five runs - including two home runs - on Thursday, and has now allowed 14 runs over his last three starts. It’s becoming clear why he was so readily available in the middle of the season.
Thanks to Darvish’s dominance and Smyly’s non-dominance, the Phillies were in a 5-0 hole after seven innings. But once Darvish left the game, the Phillies showed some life. In the eighth, Corey Dickerson singled home a run, but Rhys Hoskins was thrown out at the plate to end the threat.
In the ninth, those signs of life grew stronger. Cesar Hernandez reached on an error, Scott Kingery singled, and then Brad Miller drove home a run with another single. Roman Quinn followed with another RBI single, and the Phillies had the tying on first base with Rhys Hoskins at the plate.
Hoskins has been slumping lately, so it certainly wasn’t the worst outcome when he was hit with a pitch to load the bases. This prompted Cubs manager to bring in a left handed reliever to face Harper. How’d that work out?
If you talk to Nationals fans, they’ll tell you that Harper isn’t a clutch player, and most of his numbers came in lopsided games. Perhaps that was true in previous seasons, but in 2019? He’s been as clutch as anyone:
Bryce Harper has a higher WPA (win probability added) this season than:— Max's Sporting Studio (@MaxSportsStudio) August 16, 2019
Cody Bellinger (4.95)
Mike Trout (4.94)
Freddie Freeman (4.93)
Ronald Acuna Jr. (4.25)
Xander Bogaerts (4.05)
In fact, the only hitter with a higher WPA than Bryce Harper (5.07) is Christian Yelich (5.92).
If you thought yesterday’s Charlie Manuel takes were hot, I’ve got an even hotter one for you: If the Phillies make the playoffs, Bryce Harper will be the National League MVP.