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BRYCE HARPER’S DAILY routine is no different than many Philadelphia sports fans. On his drive into the city from his home in the suburb of Haddonfield, New Jersey, he listens to local sports talk radio. Often, he walks into Citizens Bank Park wearing gear of a Philadelphia sports team. Then Harper changes into his uniform, rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

Harper gets a thrill from hearing the passion that fans in his sports-crazed city have for their teams — especially because it’s a passion he shares with them.

“People that call into the radio, they love it. They love us. I love listening to it. I think it’s hilarious. I enjoy listening about all the other sports in town. I love cheering on the Eagles. I love cheering on the Sixers and Flyers,” Harper said. “

“We all know what it’s like to play here and so we all cheer for each other and understand each other. When the city rallies around a team and all the players, it’s just so much fun to see.”

Harper began endearing himself to a fan base known for its rough edges from the moment he signed a 13-year, $330 million contract before the 2019 season. He famously overruled agent Scott Boras’ insistence to include an opt-out, wanting to show loyalty to the place he planned to spend the rest of his career. He also turned down an opportunity to don No. 34 — his number with the Washington Nationals — declaring that Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay “should be the last to wear it.” When he bemoaned the price of beer at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia knew it had found one of its own.

“Bryce is really good at saying the right thing and I don’t think it’s B.S.,” longtime Phillies first baseman and current team broadcaster John Kruk told ESPN recently. “He means it. From Day 1, when he signed that contract and he didn’t ask for that opt-out, that meant a lot to the fans.”

Fast forward five years and Harper is even more beloved in Philly. Sure, winning an MVP award in 2021 helped that cause. So did leading the Phillies to the World Series the following year and returning to the National League Championship series in October. But it’s not just the awards and playoff victories that have strengthened his bond with the city.

“I came from Southern California, having no idea what the East Coast was like, let alone Philadelphia,” Chase Utley, another Philly great, said in a phone conversation. “It takes a certain type of personality to succeed and thrive in the Philadelphia sports world. Bryce had it right away.

“He brings you into his game with his talent and grit. That resonates with the fan base.”

The adoration of an East Coast city that prides itself on blue-collar toughness might not be what you’d expect for a superstar who grew up 2,500 miles away, among the glittering lights of Las Vegas. But Harper has always been as much South Philly as Vegas Strip.

“I kind of always thought the city suited him and it was only a matter of time before he got here,” said Trea Turner, who was also Harper’s teammate in D.C. “Bryce is Philadelphia now.”


HARPER WANTS YOU to know at least one thing about Las Vegas: It’s not all about the Strip. There are neighborhoods and locals and working class people all over — just not necessarily where tourists go. It’s more blue-collar than many think.

“You have to be a hard-working town when you’re building all those casinos,” he said.

Harper’s father, Ron, is an iron worker who did local construction for 30 years; his extended family all worked “blue-collar jobs” as well. Harper’s work ethic was honed early in life, in part by laying rebar with his dad.

He took that mindset onto the field with him, quickly outpacing ballplayers his age and playing against players four or five years older on Las Vegas’ best travel teams. At 16, he decided to leave high school, earn his GED and enroll at the College of Southern Nevada. He continued to dominate there, winning college baseball’s Golden Spikes Award, an honor that’s been given to a junior college player just twice in nearly a half-century, in 2010.

All the early morning runs, the workouts in the gym and his dominance on the field paid off that same year when Harper was selected first overall by Washington.

“Bryce was the guy. Everybody had their eyes on Bryce,” said Mike Bryant, who coached Harper, Joey Gallo and his own future major league MVP son Kris, in Las Vegas youth leagues. “Just having Bryce around brought eyes on everyone else. He was the guy. No question about it.”

That sort of attitude and expectations also helped prepare him for the kind of scrutiny a superstar faces in Philadelphia.

“He’s been in the spotlight since he was 14,” former Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. “That has a lot to do with it. He’s had pressure on him his whole life. When you come here, you better be able to deal with it. That doesn’t bother him.”


NEVER WAS HARPER’S work ethic more apparent than his months of rehab after his November 2022 Tommy John surgery. The initial timetable had him rejoining the team around the 2023 All-Star break, but he had a different plan. On May 2 — more than two months ahead of schedule — Harper was back, moving to a new position and eventually helping the Phillies to another playoff berth.

“I was calling him a superhero,” fellow Las Vegas product and Phillies infielder Bryson Stott said. “His body heals faster than anyone I think I’ve ever seen.”

Though Harper’s move to first base was initially to protect his still-tender arm, the initial success led the Phillies to make the move permanent this offseason. Harper had enough clout that he could have vetoed the plan and stayed at designated hitter or lobbied for a move back to the outfield.

“That’s the first thing our infield coach, Bobby Dickerson, said to me: ‘If you’re all-in, we’re going to do this. If you’re not, we’re not going to,'” Harper recalled. “From that point on, I told him, ‘Whatever you want to do.’

“I love being coached.”

The undertaking meant Harper would need to spend hours this spring learning the nuances of a new position, often putting in extra time before batting practice taking ground balls. His teammates and coaches saw the former MVP attack his new challenge like a rookie trying to make the roster.

“We spent at least 20 minutes a day on our half field. We did all the skill parts of playing the position,” Dickerson said. “Then I did a little verbal test with him every few days, like, ‘Runner on first, double down the right-field line. Where do you go?’ I would hit him with that a good bit.”

“It’s been an amazing transformation to watch, actually. You spend your whole career doing different things in the outfield, then in the major leagues [you] learn to play first base.”

The results so far tell the story. According to ESPN Stats & Information, his range moving to his right has improved since last year and he ranks near the top of the league in outs above average (second) and defensive runs saved (second). Through Wednesday, Harper’s had 251 chances at first base without committing an error.

“It’s still a transition,” Harper said. “I’m still learning where I need to be on the field. When a guy hits a ball down the line or in the gap, you can’t get caught watching paint dry. I sit there sometimes and watch Bryson make a great play and I’m like, ‘Holy crap, I have to cover first base.'”

Stott sees the connection between that work Harper puts in behind the scenes and his Las Vegas roots. Yes, there are bright lights and big paydays but nothing gets done without effort.

“You see the casino executives,” Stott said. “They’re working, but they’re not in the streets building the casinos. You don’t see those people. You don’t see the work [Bryce] put in either.”


NO MATTER HOW hard you work — or how well you perform — there is a reality for all professional athletes in Philadelphia: You will be booed.

Harper was already hearing it from the fans on his first Opening Day as a Phillie, in 2019 — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“On my first day I punched out against Julio Teheran, and I’m walking back to the dugout and they booed me on my first at-bat,” Harper said. “I totally understand and get it.

“When you do stuff wrong they’re going to let you know. As players in this clubhouse, we love that and from an individual standpoint, I love it.”

Harper made it clear that a few boos weren’t going to keep him down — he homered in each of the next three games. Just as important, he answered the tough postgame questions from reporters, starting with that initial 0-for-3 debut.

That culture of accountability has spread through a clubhouse filled with players who have come to join Harper in Philadelphia, a city that is now a destination for big-name free agents. First it was Zack Wheeler signing a $118 million deal before the 2020 season, then sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos signed on the next season. Finally, Turner reunited with Harper by signing a $300 million contract an offseason ago.

Together, they have formed a core beloved in the city as few Philadelphia teams — in any sport — have been before.

“When they have a s— game, [the fans] want to hear it,” Bowa said. “‘Hey, I stunk tonight.’ Schwarber does it. Turner, too. Bryce has had that kind of impact.”

Some around the Phillies credit the bond Harper created for bringing out a softer side of the fan base. Instead of booing Alec Bohm out of town when he was caught mouthing “I f—ing hate this place” after making an error, the fans rallied around their young third baseman. Turner received a similar reaction when he was greeted with a standing ovation — not a round of boos — when he came to the plate in August, in the midst of a prolonged slump in his first season with the Phillies.

“He’s done a good job of showing the other side of Philly,” Turner said. “The coolest part, over the last five years, is to see where it started and where it is now. The whole organization and the fans and all that stuff is in a lot better position.”

Schwarber agreed. “He embraces the way that they think,” he said. “And he’s really public with it. He wants to win it and win it for the city. That’s what you want out of a leader. That’s what makes it exciting to come and play every day.”

Of course, Harper knows Philadelphia is still Philadelphia, and the boos could always come unless one of these seasons ends with him holding up the World Series trophy. Though they’ve come close, a championship has evaded them, and the euphoria of the team’s unexpected 2022 postseason run was replaced by frustration when the team lost Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at home in October. Signed through 2031, Harper still has nearly a decade to deliver that ultimate prize to his city.

“You do it for so long that it becomes the goal even more, right?” Harper said. “We have such a great group of guys. All we want to do is win. We don’t care about anything else.

“Philly is a very results-oriented town.”

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Reds extend Dodgers’ skid to 5; Ohtani at ‘90%’

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Reds extend Dodgers' skid to 5; Ohtani at '90%'

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of their longest losing streak since 2019, but first baseman Freddie Freeman has no doubt that there’s no concern.

“It’s May, it’s baseball,” Freeman said. “Two weeks ago, we were winning every game. I don’t think anybody needs to question in our lineup. We’ll be fine.”

The Cincinnati Reds finished off a sweep of the Dodgers with a 4-1 victory Sunday, extending LA’s slide to five games — it’s longest since dropping six in a row April 8-13, 2019.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani went 3-for-12 in the series while dealing with a bruised right hamstring. He batted second Sunday and went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter, reaching on an infield single while scoring the Dodgers’ only run.

“It’s right around 90%,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani’s hamstring. “Assuming it will keep getting better, I feel confident that he can play smart and not push it. Talked to him about not trying to steal a base. Be smart. The value of having him in the lineup is everything.”

Los Angeles’ lineup has been hampered by inconsistency. The Dodgers scored six times in the series opener, and then scored two more over the next two games.They have been shut out twice this month while scoring two or fewer runs six times.

“When you’re not hitting, it certainly seems lifeless,” Roberts said. “Seems like we’re running cold. I know it’s not from care or preparation. Bottom line, it’s about results and we’re not getting them right now. They outplayed us this series and won three.”

Roberts hinted at a couple of changes to the lineup when the Dodgers begin a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

“Some guys might be pressing a little bit,” Roberts said. “Every time I write the lineup, I feel good that we’re going to put up some runs. It’s not a big picture-type thing. It’s certainly been two weeks where it hasn’t been good.”

Jonathan India and Nick Martini each drove in two runs for the Reds, and Brent Suter, Nick Martinez, Carson Spiers and Alexis Diaz combined for a five-hitter.

Martinez (2-3) pitched 4⅓ innings of one-hit ball on a bullpen day for Cincinnati, and Díaz got two outs for his 10th save.

“It starts with our pitchers,” Reds manager David Bell said. “They’re ready to take the ball. Starting with Brent Suter, who did his job. That’s where it starts. Nick Martinez took over. Nick continues to show when he executes his pitches how good he is. To pitch so well against this team really says a lot.”

Freeman hit an RBI double in the ninth, stopping a 0-for-22 slide for the Dodgers with runners in scoring position. Freeman then advanced on defensive indifference, but Díaz struck out Teoscar Hernandez and Andy Pages swinging.

The start of the game was moved up from 1:40 p.m. EDT to 12:10 p.m. due to the threat of severe storms that arrived in the sixth inning. The teams then waited through a delay for just over an hour.

Cincinnati scored four times in the third off Yoshinobu Yamamoto (5-2). India had a bases-loaded single, and Martini’s bloop hit scored two more.

Yamamoto allowed six hits, struck out eight and walked two in five innings.

“They found a way to fight with two outs and find some outfield grass,” Roberts said. “They stayed inside the baseball. When you fight, you get those breaks sometimes. Outside of that, I thought Yoshi was fantastic. He was one hitter away from going five scoreless.”

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Right-hander Gavin Stone (4-2, 3.60 ERA) will oppose Mets right-hander Tylor Megill (0-2, 3.00 ERA) on Monday in the opener of a three-game series.

Reds: Left-hander Nick Lodolo (3-2, 3.34 ERA) will come off the injured list to start the series opener against the Cardinals on Monday. Lance Lynn (2-2, 3.68 ERA) starts for St. Louis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

DETROIT — Matt Vierling homered twice, including a tiebreaking, three-run drive off Jordan Romano in the ninth inning that gave Detroit a wild 14-11 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday after the Tigers wasted a five-run lead and recovered from a two-run deficit.

Vierling had four hits and tied career highs with two homers and four RBIs.

“My brother and I in the back yard, we’d always be doing situations like that,” Vierling said. “It’s kind of cool when it actually happens.”

Carson Kelly hit a three-run homer and Spencer Torkelson hit a solo shot for Detroit, which led 5-0 after three innings, 8-3 after five and 9-5 after six. The Tigers set a season high for runs and tied their high with 17 hits.

Torkelson had three hits and scored three runs.

“He’s really easy to root for,” Torkelson said of Vierling. “To see him come through, we had all the faith in the world and confidence he’d get the job done there. That’s exactly what he did.”

Toronto’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa homered in the seventh off Tyler Holton, and the Blue Jays took an 11-9 lead with a five-run eighth when Bo Bichette hit a two-run single off Jason Foley and Daulton Varsho hit a three-run homer.

Toronto manager John Schneider drew some consolation by the way his team kept fighting back.

“It’s easy to kind of quit after that and the guys did the exact opposite,” he said. “Chipped away and came back with huge hits from Bo and Varsh.”

Mark Canha tied the score with a two-run single against Yimi Garcia in the bottom half, his third hit.

Vierling, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Zach Pop, drove a full-count slider from Romano (1-2) over the left-field wall for his first big league walk-off hit. A two-time All-Star, Romano has allowed three homers this year, half his total last season.

“I was ready for that pitch that he threw me 3-2,” Vierling said. “I was kind of looking for it 2-2, as well, but it was low and I was able to check my swing enough. The next pitch was the same pitch, just a little more up.”

Mason Englert (1-0) pitched a hitless ninth for the Tigers (26-27), who won the last three games of a four-game series against the last-place Blue Jays (23-29).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had his second four-hit game of the season for the Blue Jays.

Detroit starter Casey Mize gave up three runs and eight hits in 4⅓ innings. Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings. Mize and Kikuchi are 0-3 each in their six starts.

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Braves’ Acuna leaves game with knee soreness

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Braves' Acuna leaves game with knee soreness

PITTSBURGH — Ronald Acuna Jr. left the Atlanta Braves8-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning Sunday with left knee soreness after his knee appeared to buckle.

The reigning National League MVP led off the game with a double to right-center field off Martin Perez. With Marcell Ozuna at the plate, Acuna started toward third on a stolen base attempt and his left knee appeared to buckle. He remained down for several minutes while being treated, pointing at his left leg before walking off under his own power.

Acuna, a 26-year-old outfielder, is batting .250 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 49 games. The four-time All-Star hit a career-best .337 last season with 41 homers and 106 RBIs.

Adam Duvall shifted from left to right in the bottom half, and Jarred Kelenic entered the game in place of Acuna and played left.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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