Bryce Harper

The last time we saw 2021 NL MVP Bryce Harper in a big-league batter's box, it was June 24. He was taking a pitch off the thumb and was understandably angry, obviously knowing he was going to miss a lot of time. Fast-forward through the surgery and rehab, and he was back Friday night in Philly. 

The result was a 7-4 Phillies win and plenty of good vibes for the home team. 

Harper's first at-bat came in the midst of a huge first-inning rally. He was actually the one who got the scoring started, as he came to bat with the bases loaded, no out and came through with a single to plate two runs: 

Watching the whole at-bat, from the entrance through the ovation after, was pretty fun. The crowd was locked in from the get-go and remained standing throughout. 

The Phillies would end up scoring four runs in the first and tacking on two more in the second. The Philly offense was a bit stagnant afterward, however, leaving room for the Pirates to make this thing interesting in the late innings. The Pirates cut the Phillies' lead to 6-4 in the seventh. 

The Phillies were able to get one back in the bottom of the eighth to provide some breathing room for the banged-up bullpen. 

Harper led the way with two RBI. Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm and Nick Castellanos had two hits apiece in a pretty balanced effort, overall, from a much deeper Phillies lineup than we've seen most of the year. 

The Phillies are playing their best baseball of the season, especially now that they've re-inserted their best player into the heart of the lineup. They were swept to start the second half against the Cubs -- which doesn't look nearly as horrible now as it did then, even if it's still a black mark -- but since then have gone 22-9. 

On the season, the 71-55 Phillies still have work to do to avoid falling out of a playoff spot, but they've looked the part for quite a while. They look even better with No. 34 back in the cleanup spot.