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Pirates vs. Phillies Friday MLB injury report, odds: Bryce Harper to return, Zack Wheeler placed on IL

The Phillies will have Bryce Harper back in the lineup Friday after a long injury absence.
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Some sports statistics simply don't make sense. For example: The Philadelphia Phillies have a superior record this season (35-26) without two-time National League MVP Bryce Harper in the lineup than they do with him (35-29), but it's safe to say the Phillies will be that much better Friday when Harper is activated off the injured list and in the lineup. Philadelphia is a big home favorite at Caesars Sportsbook against the Pirates, but won't have ace Zack Wheeler on the mound as planned.

Harper hasn't played since taking a pitch from the Padres' Blake Snell off his left thumb on June 25. The pitch was coming toward Harper's head so he raised his left hand to protect himself, which resulted in a fracture. He had surgery a few days later and while there was always optimism that he would return this season, it wasn't a sure thing. Instead, he will be back ahead of schedule.

In 64 games this season, he was hitting .318 with 15 homers, 48 RBI, an OPS of .985 and a WAR of 2.6. Harper's odds to repeat as NL MVP shifted from +1400 to +5000 at BetMGM after the diagnosis.

Since last year's All-Star break, Harper has played in 137 games and slashed .328/.433/.656 with a 1.089 OPS, 103 runs, 49 doubles, two triples, 35 home runs, 98 RBI, 91 walks and 15 stolen bases. Among all MLB players with at least 500 plate appearances since last year's break, Harper ranks first in OPS and slugging, and second in on-base percentage and batting average.

There was a chance the Phillies were going to activate Harper on Thursday, but he instead he took a day off from action after going 5-for-8 with two home runs, two doubles (include a walk-off winner Wednesday), and two walks across his first two minor-league rehab games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Because Harper still is dealing with ligament damage in his right elbow, which he will have repaired this offseason, he has been deployed solely at DH and that will continue. The Pirates are scheduled to start Bryse Wilson (2-7, 5.74 ERA) on Friday and Harper is 1-for-4 off him with a solo shot.

Philadelphia (70-55) holds down the second NL Wild-Card spot, 2.5 games ahead of San Diego, and Harper's return obviously bodes well for the team to reach the postseason – although Wheeler, originally scheduled to start tonight, was put on the injured list Thursday with right forearm tendinitis. That's potentially a major red flag for the 2021 NL Cy Young runner-up.

Wheeler had given up 10 runs in 11.1 innings in back-to-back losses and clearly didn't look right. Phillies president Dave Dombrowski said Wheeler would miss two starts and that no MIR has been scheduled, so that's a positive.

"We felt that it was better to deal with this right now and to get it over with,'' Dombrowski said.

Lefty Bailey Falter (1-3, 4.40 ERA) gets the call tonight. He took a no-decision in Pittsburgh on July 29, allowing two runs over six. 

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