CLEVELAND (AP) — Bryce Harper drove in the go-ahead run with a 10th-inning single and flashed more solid defense in his second career start at first base, leading the Philadelphia Phillies past the Cleveland Guardians 8-5 Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep.
“He’s an athlete and he’s a baseball player,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said.
Thomson admitted he’s surprised how comfortable Harper looks at his new position, a transition from the outfield that only began Friday night.
“You can never tell with the speed of the game how it’s going to affect people, but he looks like he’s been there before,” Thomson said.
“I’ve put in a lot of work,” Harper said after the Phillies stopped a four-game slide. “Anything I can do to help this team win, wherever that may be on the field. Try to play the best game possible I can. That’s why they got me here. That’s why I love being here.”
Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel (6-1) blew his first save of the season in 17 chances when David Fry hit a solo homer with two outs in the ninth to tie it 4-all. The home run came on a 1-0 pitch and narrowly cleared the 19-foot wall in left field.
The ball bounced back on the field after landing in the bleachers, which led to some brief confusion.
“I thought it was gone and then I looked up and the ball was bouncing back to left field,” Fry said. “I was like, I better go. And then I look at (third base coach Mike Sarbaugh) and he signaled, it’s a homer.”
Kyle Schwarber began the 10th as the automatic runner at second base. Trea Turner drew a walk before Harper singled up the middle off Tim Herrin (1-1). J.T. Realmuto hit a sacrifice fly and Alec Bohm had a two-run single that made it 8-4.
Cleveland threatened to come back in the bottom half. Steven Kwan’s single off Jeff Hoffman scored a run, and a walk to Tyler Freeman loaded the bases with no outs. Yunior Marte replaced Hoffman and got out of the jam for his second save. José Ramírez flied out, Josh Naylor popped out and Myles Straw grounded out.
Harper turned in two outstanding plays in the fourth and ended a fifth-inning threat with an unassisted double play. He also had a tying groundout in the fifth.
Harper tumbled into an empty photographer’s pit catching a foul pop Friday. And no, Thomson did not have a talk with the two-time NL MVP about toning down his playing style.
“It’s hard to tell Bryce Harper to take it easy. It really is,” Thomson said before Sunday’s game. “He’s going to be on fire all the time. You’re really wasting your breath if it came up.”
During the fourth inning, Harper made a diving stop on the cut of the outfield grass on Josh Bell’s sharply hit grounder and beat him to the bag. He made another diving play in front of the bag to spear Will Brennan’s grounder and tagged the base to end the inning.
Harper turned an unassisted double play to end the fifth, grabbing a line drive hit by Freeman and tagging Kwan, who was too far off the bag. Harper is playing first base to get back in the field as his arm fully recovers from elbow surgery.
Xzavion Curry committed a bases-loaded balk in the first, but Cleveland built a 3-1 lead.
Aaron Nola allowed three runs in seven innings. He gave up solo homers to Kwan in the first and Andrés Giménez in the second. Nola appeared to injure his right leg later in the inning, but remained in the game after a visit from Thomson and a Phillies athletic trainer.
Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott drew four walks and stole three bases.
Guardians pitching coach Carl Willis said right-hander Gavin Williams developed a blister on his middle finger during Friday’s start. The rookie is scheduled to start Wednesday against Kansas City.
“He did a really smart thing making us aware of it after the fourth inning before it really evolved into a full-blown blister,” Willis said. “So right now, keeping fingers crossed that he’s fine and we got it soon enough that it’s not going to be a big issue.”
Guardians starters Shane Bieber, Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie are on the injured list.
Phillies: RHP Noah Song (lower back strain) is scheduled to make another minor league rehab appearance this week. He pitched two innings in relief for Triple-A Lehigh Valley against Toledo on Saturday. Song, a Rule 5 draft selection, must be activated or offered back to the Red Sox by July 28.
Guardians: Bieber (elbow inflammation) will be evaluated again by doctors and his next step will be determined later this week.
Phillies: LHP Cristopher Sánchez (0-3, 3.06 ERA) will start at home against Baltimore on Monday night.
Guardians: LHP Logan Allen (4-2, 3.21) pitches the opener of a series against Kansas City at Progressive Field.