Jay Bruce was a Phillies' fan favorite once before — as an opponent
PHILADELPHIA – Jay Bruce remembers the last time he was cheered this wildly at Citizens Bank Park.
Ok, maybe the fans weren't screaming "BRUUUUCE!" back in the NLDS in 2010, like they have been this weekend. But they loved Bruce all the same, at least as he remembers it.
"I was part of the Roy Halladay no-hitter in the playoffs, so they were cheering for me when I got out," Bruce told Delaware Online on Sunday. "And I missed a fly ball in the playoffs that Jimmy Rollins hit that essentially sealed the win for them. So they were cheering for me then, too.
"That’s the loudest I’ve ever been cheered. That was really loud."
He was then asked if it was louder than on Saturday, when Bruce knocked in two runs, bringing his total to 4 homers and 11 RBIs in his first five games since the Phillies acquired him from the Seattle Mariners last Sunday.
According to Elias Sports, only Reggie Sanders with the Pirates in 2003 and Trevor Story with the Rockies in 2016 have had similar production in their first five games with a new team since 1920, a span of 100 seasons.
"(Saturday) was good," Bruce said. "But I think that other time rivaled it, though."
Halladay no-hit the Reds in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, the first postseason no-hitter since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series for the Yankees.
Bruce did draw a walk, so he was probably booed in that at-bat.
In Game 2, Bruce, who had homered earlier in the game in helping the Reds to a 4-0 lead (booed again, no doubt), lost Jimmy Rollins' fly ball in the lights in the seventh inning. That enabled the tying and go-ahead runs to score. The Phillies won that game, then Game 3 in Cincinnati to sweep the series.
But nine years, four transactions and a few hundred home runs later, Bruce finds himself back in the Phillies fans' good graces.
That continued Sunday. Bruce went hitless in three at-bats – the first game he didn't get a hit in a Phillies' uniform – but he did make a sliding catch in left field. Sure enough, the fans yelled "BRUUUUCE!!"
But it wasn't enough in the Phillies' 4-3 loss as the Reds scored three times in the seventh. The Phillies (37-28) built a 3-1 lead in the third inning when two runs scored on Rhys Hoskins' routine popup to first base that fell in for a hit.
In the fifth, Harper was thrown out trying to steal home with two outs and Hoskins batting. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was not a fan of that attempt, saying he pulled Harper aside after the inning.
"He just wanted me to be safe," Harper said. "I think that’s the biggest thing. Rhys may be swinging right there, things like that."
Why did he even try it?
"1-and-2 count. Count’s in (Reds pitcher Sonny) Gray’s favor right there," Harper said. "He was pretty long in the windup as well. I had a good read, a good jump. I think if I had just slid head first, I could have gotten my hand in there a little bit. It probably would have been better."
Still, the Phillies might have saved their season with Bruce in the lineup. The Phillies were reeling when center fielder Odubel Herrera was suspended indefinitely the week before on a domestic assault charge. Then the day after Bruce was acquired, Andrew McCutchen, who had moved from left field to center to replace Herrera, tore his ACL and was lost for the season.
That made Bruce the every day left fielder. That, and the torrid start, would have made Bruce's first week quite a whirlwind.
But all of that came the logistics of a move. Bruce was in Seattle last Sunday when he heard about the trade, so he flew to San Diego, where the Phillies were playing, and met the team there for the game Monday. He came to Philly on Wednesday night. By Friday, he found a house to live in.
"Truth be told, Bryce (Harper) sent me a link to a house on realtor.com, and I called and it worked out," Bruce said. "It was a total by-chance situation."
In the meantime, Bruce's wife, Hannah, packed up the house in Seattle, and flew east with their two boys, ages 1 and 3. One of their cars was shipped right away and arrived Sunday. Another will arrive this week.
"This has probably been the smoothest trade that I’ve ever been a part of in the middle of a season," Bruce said. "I’ve got a saint of a wife who stayed back and packed everything, and got it moving east. And I came into a group of guys who made me feel very welcome and made the transition even that much easier."
And the easier the Phillies can make things for Bruce, the better.
"I think Jay has come in here and been a true professional," Harper said. "That’s how he’s been his whole career. So to be able to get a guy like that to really help us out has been huge for us."
After all, Bruce hit 36 homers and knocked in 101 runs in 2017 playing for the Mets and Cleveland Indians. He had never hit less than 21 homers in a season from his rookie year of 2008 until last season.
Bruce had hit 14 homers this season as a part-time player in Seattle. And he quickly has four more with the Phillies, putting him on pace to surpass 30 homers in a season for the sixth time in his career.
Especially now that he's an every day player again.
"If anything, it would have been much more of a change doing what I was doing in Seattle," Bruce said. "So having an opportunity – granted the way it happened was not even close to the way I wanted it to happen because obviously, Andrew’s injury was devastating. But at the end of the day, it’s a situation that did arise and it’s just business as usual for me now. It’s what I’ve done my whole career."
The Phillies desperately need him to keep doing it.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.