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Bryce Harper, 'happy to be back' after long absence, drives in two to help surging Phillies stay hot

Bryce Harper hit a two-run single in his first at-bat after a 52-game absence due to a broken left thumb, helping the streaking Philadelphia Phillies to a 7-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.

Harper grounded out twice and lined out sharply in his three other at-bats in his first action since being hit on the hand by San Diego Padres left-hander Blake Snell on June 25. The reigning NL MVP batted cleanup as the designated hitter and helped the Phillies win their fifth straight game.

"I'm just happy to be back, get in there and help this team win,'' Harper said.

Philadelphia, which went 32-20 without Harper, began play in second place in the NL wild-card race.

"I'm just trying to come in here and not screw it up; they're playing so well,'' Harper said. "It's been fun to be able to watch and even more fun to go out there and be around them.''

Harper jogged out for warmups to loud cheers and "Let's Go Harper!'' chants 25 minutes before first pitch. The ovation from the announced crowd of 30,546 was deafening when Harper was introduced 20 minutes later. The cheers grew even louder, accompanied by a standing ovation and "M-V-P!'' chants, when he stepped to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded in the first.

"I started laughing because it's awesome,'' Harper said of the reception. "I love those types of moments, I love those opportunities, I love jam-packed crowds and being able to play in front of 40,000 people. That's what it's all about.''

With a 2-2 count against Bryse Wilson (2-8), Harper lined a hard two-run single into right field.

"My teammates set me up for a perfect opportunity right there, and I was able to come through,'' he said.

Harper went 5 for 8 with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs in a pair of rehab starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Phillies had planned to keep Harper in Triple-A through Saturday, but his return to the big leagues was moved up after his walk-off double for the IronPigs on Wednesday night.

"I just want to get back, I just want to play, I just want to help,'' he said. "We have a team with an opportunity to go to the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs.''

The fans weren't the only ones happy to see Harper back in Philadelphia. His wife, Kayla, posted a photo on social media of her seated at Citizens Bank Park wearing a shirt with multiple images of Harper on it. She captioned the post, "wearing my heart on my sleeve."

With Harper back, the Phillies drew about 10,000 more fans than they averaged in their four-game home sweep of the Reds this week. They averaged 21,227 during that series.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.