Bryce Harper set to return as Phillies visit Giants

MLB

The Philadelphia Phillies expect to have Bryce Harper back in the lineup when they open a three-game road series against the National League West’s top team, the San Francisco Giants, on Friday night.

The set that will be capped by a Father’s Day matinee will be a rematch of a three-game April series in Philadelphia, where the Giants won the first two before dropping the finale.

Neither of Friday’s scheduled starters — Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (2-1, 4.25 ERA) and Giants righty Johnny Cueto (4-3, 4.00) — pitched in that series.

Coming off a 6-2 homestand, the Phillies dropped their first two road games against the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this week before watching Zack Wheeler outpitch Clayton Kershaw in a 2-0 win on Wednesday. The Phillies had Thursday off.

Harper also got Wednesday off after experiencing a small spasm in his back during a Tuesday at-bat.

Phillies manager Joe Girardi said Thursday that not only does he expect Harper to be healthy for the entire series in San Francisco, but there will be no restrictions.

“I don’t think it will make Bryce tentative,” Girardi said. “I haven’t seen him really be tentative this year. I put my arm around him sometimes when he slides head-first and I say, ‘Please don’t do that.’ It really hasn’t made him any more tentative.”

Harper went 2-for-6 in the Los Angeles series, with both hits coming in Monday’s series-opening loss.

The Giants are coming off a four-game demolition of visiting Arizona, a series capped by a 10-3 victory on Thursday that sent the Diamondbacks to their record-breaking 23rd consecutive road defeat.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler enjoyed the win not because it embarrassed an NL West rival but because staff ace Kevin Gausman’s eight innings gave all of his key relievers a day off entering the Philadelphia series.

“He’s just done so much for our ‘pen,” Kapler said after the victory. “That’s just so big for us. He’s done that for us all year. Our bullpen has been fresher as a result of his performance.”

Cueto will be the guy who could benefit first from the rested relievers as he attempts to brush off shaky career numbers against Philadelphia. The veteran is 1-5 with a 5.30 ERA in 12 starts vs. the Phillies, with the only win coming 11 years ago.

Former Giant Andrew McCutchen has been a career-long thorn in Cueto’s side, stroking four homers in 66 at-bats. Harper has gone just 2-for-9 with four walks.

Velasquez likewise has struggled in his career against the Giants, going 1-3 with a 3.62 ERA in five starts. He has lost both of his lifetime starts at Oracle Park.

The 29-year-old California native can only hope to continue his mastery of Brandon Belt, who has never recorded a hit in his career against Velasquez, going 0-for-10.

That’s nine fewer hits than Belt had in the four-game series against the Diamondbacks, when he collected three singles, three doubles, two triples and a home run in 16 at-bats. He added three walks, five runs and four RBIs.

–Field Level Media

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