Bryce Harper went to the plate Wednesday night without batting gloves, perhaps hoping that swinging without protection would help him snap his funk. It almost worked — Harper slammed a ball 385 feet to the warning track — but his slump continued.
So manager Gabe Kapler tried something else the next morning. Harper batted second in Thursday’s 11-3 loss to the Brewers after hitting from the No. 3 spot in the lineup in each of the previous 42 games. Jean Segura, normally the No. 2 hitter, slid to the third spot.
“We really, really just wanted to provide a spark,” Kapler said before the game. “We’ve had some successes, we’ve had some dry spells. We just want to give ourselves an opportunity to click on all cylinders. It just kind of made sense to shake it up a little bit and give guys a fresh perspective and new look.”
Harper went 1-for-4 from his new spot and is batting .184 since April 13 with a .316 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage in 136 plate appearances over his last 31 games. He has 20 strikeouts this month in 14 games and has struck out Thursday for the sixth-straight game.
But for the second-straight game, there was some positives. Harper reached on a fielder’s choice in the third inning after rocketing a ball 110.1 mph, which was the hardest hit of the game. It was the second straight game where his point of contact was the hardest. Harper, when he’s not striking out, is at least hitting the ball hard.
“I just try to go out there and have good at-bats. That’s pretty much it,” Harper said. “I kind of look at the bad ones more than the good ones. I look at that last at-bat and I could have walked, but I swung at a pitch over my head three times. I have to get better at that. I have to get better at seeing pitches and getting on base a little bit more. I have to be better.”
Kapler texted Harper on Thursday morning to alert him of his new lineup spot. Harper told the manager that it was not a problem. After the game, Harper said it was fine and it “didn’t feel any different.” He moved just one spot in the lineup. It wasn’t a drastic change, but the Phillies hope it could provide the jolt that Harper needs.
“I think he profiles well in that role, right? Get on base and hit home runs,” Kapler said. “I think that’s pretty good for the two or the four spot. It’s good for the three, too. But I think he’s a pretty good fit for anywhere at the top of the lineup. It could very well be that he ends up back in the three hole in the lineup in the next couple days. It might change up the routine every so slightly for our guys, and maybe that helps us get on track.”