December 6, 2023

PHILADELPHIA — Phillies star Bryce Harper wouldn’t exactly admit he was fueled by comments Atlanta Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia made about him after Game 2 of the teams’ National League Division Series — but he certainly heard about them.

Harper responded with two home runs in a Game 3 blowout by Philadelphia on Wednesday, staring down Arcia both times he rounded the bases.

“It’s a super competitive game that we play, from both sides of the ball,” Harper said after the Phillies’ 10-2 victory put them up 2-1 in the best-of-five series. “And I enjoy commentary and things. … Anytime anybody says something, right? I mean that’s what it’s all about.”

Arcia’s comments came while celebrating in the Braves’ clubhouse after Harper was doubled off first base to end Monday night’s game, in which Atlanta rallied from a four-run deficit after being no-hit into the sixth inning. Arcia could be heard yelling, “ha-ha, attaboy, Harper!” several times.

The barb got back to the Phillies veteran.

“Yeah, just [from] my teammates,” Harper said. “That’s about it. They just kind of told me, and they looked at me, and they were like, ‘What are you going to do?'”

Harper and teammate Nick Castellanos both arrived at the ballpark wearing gear inspired by Colorado coach Deion Sanders. Harper wore a ” Coach Prime” T-shirt and Castellanos a “Prime” hoodie.

The brash Sanders retorted at criticism earlier this season from a rival coach by saying, “They done messed around and made it personal” — a quote the Phillies alluded to in an X post showing Harper and Castellano in their gear ahead of Wednesday’s game.

“I was driving to the field, and I went oh, no. He actually played for Atlanta. Maybe I should turn around and go take this shirt off,” Harper explained with a laugh, though he and Castellanos denied there was a message behind the outfits.

Harper’s blasts were part of a six-homer barrage by Philadelphia that included two by Castellanos, one by Trea Turner and one by Brandon Marsh. It was Harper’s 9th and 10th career home runs in the division series, most all time.

The six home runs were also a Phillies’ playoff record and tied the 2015 Chicago Cubs (NLDS Game 3) for most in a postseason game.

But after the game, most of the conversation revolved around Arcia.

“There’s one person I would never talk about,” Turner said. “It’s that guy [Harper]. We don’t call him the showman for nothing.”

Arcia said the comments weren’t meant for public consumption, nor were they said directly to reporters — though reporters were in the clubhouse when he said them.

“He wasn’t supposed to hear it,” Arcia said through the Braves’ interpreter. “That’s why we were talking in the clubhouse. … When you’re in the clubhouse I’m under the impression you can say whatever you wanted. I guess it was something that was reported.”

He was also asked if he noticed the stare-downs from Harper during the game.

“I can’t control where he looks,” Arcia said. “He can look wherever he wants to look.”

Harper wasn’t overly upset about the situation because he doesn’t believe he made a gaffe in getting doubled off Monday.

“I don’t think it was a miscue,” Harper said. “But I took a chance, and Michael Harris made an incredible play [in center]. If that hits off the wall or he bobbles it or anything, I score. I don’t think I’m not going to change the way I play because of a moment or situation.”

Other teammates were asked if they believed Harper was fueled by Arcia’s comments.

“Fueled? I don’t think that guy needs any fuel to do what he did tonight,” Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs said. “We’ve seen that before. … We all heard the quote. It’s fun to watch a guy like that after somebody makes comments, to go and be successful.”

Mostly, Harper was pleased the Phillies won, putting them on the cusp of a second straight NLCS appearance.

“I love this place,” Harper said. “Flat out, I love this place. There’s nothing like coming into the Bank and playing in front of these fans. Blue-collar mentality, tough, fighting every single day. I get chills, man. I get so fired up. Man, I love this place.”

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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