Phillies slugger Bryce Harper homers for his first 3 hits of the season

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bryce Harper’s first hit of the season was a big one. Same for his second. And third.

Harper homered three times for Philadelphia during its 9-4 win against Cincinnati on Tuesday night, including a grand slam in the seventh inning. The two-time NL MVP went 0 for 11 while playing in three of the Phillies’ first four games.

“If you hit two you want three and if you hit three, you want four — that’s just the mindset,” Harper said. “I’m not satisfied with one, or two, or three. You know how I am. ... I expect myself to do that every night. It’s just what I expect out of myself and I know my teammates do as well and this fanbase and everybody else.”

The 31-year-old Harper drove a 1-2 cut fastball from Graham Ashcraft deep to center in the first. The 420-foot solo shot had an exit velocity of 107.7 mph.

He came up again in the fourth and hit another solo shot to right. The 367-foot homer on the first pitch of the at-bat gave Harper 1,000 career runs.

Harper’s grand slam — a 422-foot shot to right-center on a full-count sinker from Brent Suter — lifted the Phillies to an 8-1 lead.

“That’s what the great players do,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “They have big nights like that. We needed that grand slam just sort of like an exhale (for the team). It was huge.”

It was Harper’s 26th career multihomer game. The seven-time All-Star last accomplished the feat on Aug. 16, 2023, at Toronto.

It was his second three-homer game. He also went deep three times for Washington against Miami on May 6, 2015.

When it came to the details of his first three-homer performance, Harper had a pretty good memory. He was only off on the date.

“All off of Tom Koehler,” Harper said. “I think it was May 7th. Yeah, May 7th. I went left field, right field, right field. I went into the bullpen over Ichiro’s head.”

Harper was hampered by back tightness at the end of spring training, possibly contributing to his slow start. He is in his first full season playing first base after reconstructive elbow surgery forced him to move from right field.

He tumbled into a photographer’s well on Saturday and then rested during Sunday’s 5-4 win over Atlanta.

The Phillies said it was a scheduled day off, but Thomson said after the game Harper was sore. Thomson was noncommittal about playing Harper on Tuesday night, concerned about the weather forecast, but he kept the slugger in the lineup.

The decision worked out quite well for Harper, Thomson and the Phils.