Another meek showing from Phillies' offense as need for Harper heightens

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The Phillies should not be missing Bryce Harper this much.

Without their best player for a fifth straight game, the Phils barely avoided being shut out at home by the Dodgers, 4-1, in Friday's series opener.

After being held scoreless twice in their last three games, the Phillies still hadn't pushed a run across with two outs in the ninth inning when J.T. Realmuto doubled in Kyle Schwarber. It was their only inning of the night with multiple hits.

The Phils have been held to one or no runs 11 times this season. Only the A's and Tigers have done so more.

Since failing to complete a four-game sweep last Sunday at Dodger Stadium, the 18-21 Phillies have won once. The 26-12 Dodgers haven't lost.

The Phils have scored a total of eight runs in the five games Harper has missed. He had a PRP injection Sunday in his injured right elbow and the pain hasn't yet subsided to the point that he can return. They hope he can Saturday.

"It's tough, especially after the way we hit in L.A., it's tough to turn around and throw up some duds this week," said Realmuto, who was 1 for his last 23 prior to the double. "This offense is built to score and we're not doing that our last few games. We've just got too many guys struggling at the same time. Once we get Harp back and the rest of us start clicking, we'll be fun to watch because right now we're struggling."

Harper is the reigning NL MVP and had gone 18 for 36 with 12 extra-base hits in the nine games prior to his injection, but the offense still shouldn't be so meek without him. There are accomplished hitters in this lineup in Nick Castellanos, Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura and Realmuto. Too few of the key players are hitting.

Castellanos is 5 for his last 38 with one extra-base hit in nine games.

Schwarber is 7 for his last 41 with 18 strikeouts. He at least hit the ball hard three times Friday, doubling twice to deep center and lining out to the warning track in right field.

Realmuto is hitting .231. He struck out swinging in his first two at-bats on pitches well outside the zone, one up near his chin and one close to the left-handed batter's box. He responded by working a long at-bat for an RBI double against Phil Bickford in the ninth.

"I've been going through way too many swing thoughts, swing changes, just thinking too much in the batter's box," Realmuto admitted. "That at-bat, I felt like I tried to just slow everything down and feel natural. Hopefully, that can be my a-ha moment.

"I just haven't felt right timing-wise this whole season. That's what I've been trying to toy with and find my timing. I've been a little late on fastballs and not being able to stay back on the offspeed. I've been caught in between. That last at-bat, I finally felt kind of like my old self, I was able to cover both."

The Phillies had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the eighth inning but Alec Bohm lined out sharply to Mookie Betts in right. They had the tying run at the plate again in the ninth but Odubel Herrera struck out swinging against Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel.

After homering four times off of Dodgers lefty Julio Urias on the road last Saturday, the bats were held in check. Urias allowed two baserunners over five scoreless innings. He threw just 80 pitches but was lifted by manager Dave Roberts as the Dodgers prioritize October over May.

"We played four tough games out there," manager Joe Girardi said earlier Friday afternoon. "The three that we won were not easy wins. We know they're a very good team, they have a very good pitching staff, dangerous offense, they have speed in their lineup. There are a lot of different things they can do so we've got to play our best to beat them."

They certainly didn't play their best in Game 1. Ranger Suarez labored through three innings, throwing 84 pitches. He's averaged 18.1 pitches per inning this season. The only qualifying pitcher in either league averaging more is Cincinnati's Tyler Mahle at 19.1.

Suarez ended up in seven three-ball counts across his three innings and allowed three of his five hits with two strikes, including Freddie Freeman's key two-run single in the first inning.

Freeman went 2 for 14 with two singles last weekend against the Phillies. It's highly unlikely he'll be as quiet this time around and that was made apparent within two innings. The longtime Phillie-killer had a three-hit night, drove in two and scored twice.

"It’s the cliche catchphrase but it’s baseball," Schwarber said. "There’s going to be times we’re rolling and times we have a really bad week. We want to limit those bad weeks."

The Phils look to even the series behind Aaron Nola on Saturday night. Nola has bounced back nicely so far this season but received little run support. He has pitched seven innings three times already, allowing zero, one and two runs, and the Phils have lost all three games.

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