Cleveland Indians

Bryce Harper hits go-ahead home run as Phillies power past Indians

Bryce Harper hits go-ahead home run as Phillies power past Indians

BOX SCORE 

CLEVELAND — The math says the Phillies still have a chance at making the postseason.

But sitting five games back in the National League wild-card race with just nine games remaining has turned them into spoilers.

With that, the Phils threw a little hurdle in the way of the Cleveland Indians with a 9-4 win on Saturday night.

The 91-win Indians entered the night tied with Tampa Bay for the second American League wild-card spot. They had won five in a row.

The Phils trailed 4-1 after two innings, but they came back to take the lead on the strength of home runs by Brad Miller and Bryce Harper. Harper’s three-run shot in the fifth gave the Phillies the lead.

Jay Bruce and Miller — he blasted his second homer of the game in the ninth — padded the lead with solo homers.

Jason Vargas gave a tired bullpen a break with 6 2/3 strong innings.

The Phillies are 79-74. They need to win three of their final nine games to have their first winning season since 2011.

Vargas’ night

The veteran lefty came into the game with a 7.17 ERA in his previous five starts and he lasted just three innings in his previous two.

Vargas survived a costly error in the first inning and held the Indians to four runs, two of which were unearned. His fastball topped out in the mid-80s, but he was able to change speeds off of that on his way to eight strikeouts. His changeup was a good pitch.

The win was Vargas’ first since July 28, when he was with the Mets. He has 99 career wins.

Good job by the ‘pen

Jared Hughes, Jose Alvarez and Edgar Garcia teamed on 2 1/3 scoreless innings to protect the lead.

Over the last 20 games, the Phillies’ bullpen has posted a 2.69 ERA. That’s second-best in the majors over that span.

Win the battle

On Friday night, lefty reliever Oliver Perez came out of the bullpen and retired Bryce Harper on a ground ball. Cleveland manager Terry Francona went back to Perez when Harper came up with two men on base and one out in the fifth inning. This time, Harper won a long, nine-pitch battle against Perez. He fouled off five pitches before clubbing a full-count slider over the wall in right-center. The three-run homer gave the Phillies a 5-4 lead. Jay Bruce lengthened the lead to 6-4 with a solo homer later in the inning. Bruce, who has missed time with an elbow injury, has just two hits since the All-Star break. Both are homers.

Harper has 33 homers on the season.

No excuse

Shortstop Jean Segura committed a first-inning error that eventually cost Vargas two runs. Cleveland leadoff man Francisco Lindor hit a ground ball right at Segura and he made a low throw across the diamond that Rhys Hoskins could not pull out of the dirt. It was a play that a top defensive first baseman makes, but that’s not the point. The error was completely avoidable and never would have happened if Segura had not been so nonchalant in flipping his throw across the diamond. His lack of intensity on the play cost the team two runs.

Later in the game, Segura made an excellent play when he ranged behind the second-base bag, spun and fired to first base to get Franmil Reyes. Segura can do it when he wants to.

Up next

Vince Velasquez (7-7, 4.89) gets the ball in Sunday night’s series finale. He will go up against Cleveland right-hander Adam Plutko (7-4, 4.34).

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Drew Smyly puts Phillies in an early hole they can't overcome against Indians

Drew Smyly puts Phillies in an early hole they can't overcome against Indians

BOX SCORE 

CLEVELAND — The Phillies moved one step closer to being eliminated from postseason contention in a 5-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

The loss dropped the Phillies 4 ½ games out in the wild-card chase and they could be five out depending on the outcome of the Milwaukee-Pittsburgh game.

There are just 10 games remaining.

Like the Phillies, Cleveland is in must-win mode. The Indians (91-63) entered the night tied with Tampa Bay for the second American League wild-card spot.

The Phillies did not get a good start from lefty Drew Smyly.

The Indians, meanwhile, got a very good one from right-hander Shane Bieber. He gave up two runs over 7 1/3 innings.

The Phillies are 78-74. They need to win four of their final 10 games to have their first winning season since 2011.

Smyly’s night

It wasn’t good. He walked the first batter in the bottom of the third inning and was lifted by manager Gabe Kapler.

Smyly allowed the first four batters in the bottom of the first inning to reach base on a walk and three hits. Two of them scored. He gave up two more runs in the second inning. Both were unearned after a throwing error by Rhys Hoskins.

Smyly did not appear happy when Kapler pulled him from the game. But eight base runners in two-plus innings was a little much and the bullpen was able to settle things down and keep the game close.

Bieber’s night

The All-Star right-hander improved to 15-7 and lowered his ERA to 3.23.

He struck out seven and walked none. It was the eighth time this season that he’d registered at least seven strikeouts and no walks.

Bieber is a product of the 2016 draft. The Indians picked him in the fourth round out of the University of California, Santa Barbara. That was a notable draft for the Phillies because they had the first overall pick. They selected outfielder Mickey Moniak with that pick. The Phils picked pitcher Kevin Gowdy in the second round, infielder Cole Stobbe in the third round and pitcher Jo Jo Romero in the fourth round, 15 picks ahead of Bieber. Moniak played at Double A this season and Romero pitched at Double A and Triple A. Gowdy missed time recovering from Tommy John surgery and pitched at Lakewood this season. Stobbe also played there. Moniak, Stobbe and Gowdy were all chosen out of high school.

Carrasco comes up big

Carlos Carrasco, the former Phillies prospect who was traded to the Indians in the Cliff Lee deal a decade ago, registered a huge out when he retired Jay Bruce on a ground ball with runners on the corners to end the top of the eighth. Bruce could have tied the game with one swing, but Carrasco won the battle.

Carrasco is winning another battle, as well. He was treated for leukemia earlier this summer and has made it back to help the Indians’ playoff chase.

Carrasco stayed on for the ninth inning and got the save.

Scratched

Shortstop Jean Segura was a late scratch from the starting lineup. He has a sore left ankle. Maikel Franco was inserted into the lineup at third base and Scott Kingery moved over to shortstop. Franco drove in the Phillies’ runs with a double in the fifth.

Realmuto rests

Kapler gave J.T. Realmuto a rest at a crucial point of the season. The manager explained why (see story).

Up next

The series continues Saturday night. Jason Vargas (6-8, 4.48) pitches for the Phillies against Cleveland right-hander Zach Plesac (8-6, 3.64). Yes, he’s Dan’s nephew.



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Phillies fans, get ready for a make-or-break weekend

Phillies fans, get ready for a make-or-break weekend

With the Mets off and the Phillies losing Thursday’s series finale in Atlanta, the Phils enter the weekend four games behind Milwaukee for the second wild-card and looking up at three teams: the Brewers, Cubs and Mets.

It was a productive series at SunTrust Park but winning two out of three simply won’t be good enough for the Phillies over these final 11 games. They need to mix in a couple of sweeps. 

That won’t be easy over the next two series. The Phillies are in Cleveland this weekend to face an Indians team that is 27 games over .500 and tied for the second AL wild-card.

The Indians, despite losing all three of Corey Kluber (forearm), Trevor Bauer (trade) and Carlos Carrasco (now in the bullpen), have been carried by their starting pitching this season. Carrasco, the one-time Phillies prospect, missed three months after being diagnosed with Leukemia.

In Game 1, it’s Drew Smyly for the Phillies and budding ace Shane Bieber for the Indians. Bieber is 14-7 with a 3.26 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 201⅓ innings. He’s been a couple of notches better than Aaron Nola in 2019 and the Indians are as excited as about Bieber as the Phillies were with Nola after his breakout season. 

In Game 2, the Phillies face Zac Plesac, the nephew of Dan Plesac. The younger Plesac is a contact-based righty coming off of a four-hit shutout of the Angels in his last start. Cleveland gave Plesac 11 days in between starts to recover. Jason Vargas pitches for the Phils. Vargas is winless and the Phillies are 3-6 in his nine starts.

Vince Velasquez goes in Game 3 against another contact righty with a short leash, Adam Plutko.

The Phillies will also face Carlos Santana in this series. Santana has had a tremendous year, hitting .282/.398/.526 with 34 homers, 91 RBI and 106 runs scored. Career-highs in batting average, OBP, slugging, homers, RBI and runs. He’s also on track to set a new career-high in walks. Santana has a higher OPS (.924) than every Phillie. 

Outside of Santana and dynamic leadoff man Francisco Lindor, the Indians don’t have much offense. They need Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes, their two trade deadline acquisitions, to hit. Puig went 9 for 14 against the Tigers this week and Reyes broke a long homerless drought with a long homer Thursday. Jose Ramirez made up for an ice-cold start by hitting .327 with a 1.068 OPS in the second half before breaking his hand on Aug. 24.

Speaking of hands, Cleveland could also be without its lights-out closer, Brad Hand, who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 8 because of arm fatigue. Hand did throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. 

The Phillies need to sweep the Indians. Even if they win two of three, the Brewers would have to lose two of three to the lowly Pirates just for one game to be trimmed off the deficit.

After Cleveland comes a five-game series in Washington, which will include all three of Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

The Cubs have the first-place Cardinals this weekend but the Nationals play the Marlins and the Brewers host the Pirates. Miami and Pittsburgh are the two worst teams in the National League. Not an ideal time for the Phillies to be chasing clubs that get to face such inferior competition. 

If only the Phillies fattened up on those teams themselves. They are just a game over .500, 18-17 this season against the Marlins, Pirates, Rockies and Padres — the four worst teams in the NL. The difference in the season.

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