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Bryce who? Phillies 8, Padres 5

Game one of the post-Harper era was a success

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres
Your closer, Andrew Bellatti
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

It would have been understandable if the Phillies came out flat on Sunday. After seeing their star player suffer a broken thumb on Saturday night, not many people would have been surprised if the Phillies looked deflated the next time they took the field. Instead, led by some heroes both expected and unexpected, the Phillies started off the post-Bryce Harper era with an 8-5 win over the Padres.

Kyle Gibson got the start, but he was not sharp, and put the Phillies in an early hole. After some poor control led to a first inning run, the Padres rallied for four more runs against Gibson in the third, all of which came after two outs had been recorded.

Eventually, Nick Nelson was called upon to escape the early mess. Nelson has been hit or miss this season, but he did an excellent job of keeping the Phillies in the game. He went 3.1 scoreless innings, giving a chance for the Phillies’ hitters to get back into the game.

Despite missing the defending MVP, and facing an excellent starting pitcher in Yu Darvish, the Phillies did indeed get back into it. Nick Castellanos had his first big game in some time (4-5), and drove in a run in the fifth to cut the Padres’ lead to two.

Then in the seventh, after Darvish exited, the Phillies did some work against Padres reliever Nabil Crismatt. The first two runners he faced reached base and then Kyle Schwarber made sure they got home.

The Phillies tacked on two insurance runs, but they didn’t even matter, because for the second straight game, the Phillies bullpen looked downright competent in protecting a late lead. Corey Knebel looked as good as he has all season in the seventh, Jose Alvarado capably handled the eighth, and surprise closer Andrew Bellatti earned the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Despite Sunday’s result, the Phillies’ road forward is still going to be difficult. You simply can’t remove the MVP from the lineup and expect to have the same level of success. But if Schwarber and Castellanos can keep hitting well, and the bullpen can keep shutting down opponents, then maybe the Phillies will still be able to win their share of games.