PHILADELPHIA — In his Philadelphia Phillies debut Thursday, Bryce Harper looked and acted like a $330 million man of the people. He wore fluorescent-green shoes that paid homage to the Phillie Phanatic, bowed to fans chanting his name before the season’s first pitch and tossed a ball into the stands for the perfect Opening Day keepsake.
The only thing missing were the hits.
Harper went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game with the Phillies, who cobbled together plenty of offense anyway in a 10-4 victory over the reigning National League East champion Atlanta Braves.
The decision to intentionally walk Harper in the seventh inning to load the bases backfired almost instantaneously. Cleanup hitter Rhys Hoskins pummeled an 88-mph Luke Jackson slider deep over the left-field wall at Citizens Bank Park for his first career grand slam.
Harper savored his trot around the bases, kicking up dirt with his custom cleats and scoring the first run of many in a Phillies uniform. When Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in early March, he professed that he wanted to be in Philadelphia for the remainder of his career.
Bryce Harper strikes out twice, walks and plates a run in his first game with the Phillies in their 10-4 win on opening day vs. Atlanta.
The city took to him immediately. From Reading Terminal Market to South Philly and beyond, fans wore Harper’s No. 3 jersey, which Major League Baseball earlier in the day announced has been the sport’s best seller despite Harper spending less than a month in Philadelphia. They chanted his name — “Har-per, Har-per, Har-per” — and itched to see him hit his sixth career Opening Day home run.
His first with Philadelphia, after seven seasons with their division rival Washington, will come soon enough. In his first at-bat, with the crowd of 44,469 abuzz, Harper rolled over a Julio Teheran slider for a groundout to first base. Despite incredible success against Teheran — Harper entered the game with more home runs and a higher OPS against him than any other pitcher in baseball — he swung through an 84-mph slider to end the second at-bat and a 91-mph fastball to conclude the third.
Not until his fourth time up did he contribute anything of substance — and even then it was far from storybook. Harper simply admired the no-doubt shot by Hoskins as well as the contributions of the two new additions to Philadelphia who hit ahead of him in the lineup: leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen, who homered in his first Phillies at-bat, and Jean Segura, who went 2-for-4 and scored a pair of runs.