Chants of 'MVP! ... MVP!' fill the air as Harper leads amazing Phillies win


The Phillies organization's long-standing failure to draft, develop and acquire enough competent starting pitching to get through a full season stood out like an oozing blemish on a supermodel's face Thursday night.

And yet, when the lights went out at Citizens Bank Park, everyone went home feeling downright giddy.

So often this season we've heard Joe Girardi talk about his team's resilience, and, frankly, a lot of times it has sounded like so much manager-speak.

This was the word in resounding action.

The Phillies pulled out one of their wildest and most important wins of the season when they roared back from an early seven-run deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs, 17-8, and inch forward in two playoff races.

Bryce Harper was a dynamo -- he had two walks, two doubles, a homer and four RBIs -- and the crowd of 20,208 let him know it with chants of "MVP! ... MVP! ... MVP!"

"It feels good," Harper said of the crowd's reaction. "But we've got a while to go. I just want to keep winning and playing well and be where we need to be down the stretch."

The win enabled the Phillies to pick up a half-game in the NL East and wild-card races. They trail first-place Atlanta by three games in the NL East and are 2½ back in the wild card, though with three teams ahead of them.

Sixteen games remain on the Phillies' schedule. They head to New York for three with the Mets beginning Friday night.


The Mets, 72-75, would love to scuttle the Phillies' playoff chances and overtake them for second place in the NL East. The Phillies, 74-72, cannot allow that to happen.

The Phils should have some momentum on their side heading to New York. Not only do they have three real starting pitchers -- Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Kyle Gibson -- slated to pitch in the series, but they are coming off the type of win that can bring a team together and light its fire.

"Just a crazy game," Girardi said. "I looked up at the scoreboard and it looked like they scored seven in the third quarter and we scored seven in the fourth and we were going to overtime.

"Just a crazy game but our hitters did a bunch of little things."

And a bunch of big things. The Phils had seven extra-base hits and were 10 for 22 with runners in scoring position as they pulled themselves out of an early hole.

The Phils have lost Zach Eflin to a season-ending knee injury. Vince Velasquez and Chase Anderson wore out their welcomes with poor performance and Matt Moore has been banished to the bullpen for a similar reason. With no other starting pitching depth to speak of, the Phils have been forced to employ their bullpen to get through every fifth game over this final month of the season. The strategy worked once and has failed twice, including in this contest.

Girardi used four pitchers in the first four innings and the Cubs teed-off on two of them, Moore and JD Hammer, for seven runs in an embarrassing comedy of walks, hit batsmen and hard-hit balls in the third inning.

The mood was pretty glum in the ballpark as the Cubs were laying it on the Phillies in the third inning. The crowd booed lustily when Hammer gave up a three-run homer to Matt Duffy and cheered mockingly when Ramon Rosso finally got the third out.

The Cubs had their best starter, 14-game winner Kyle Hendricks, on the mound. Amazingly, he could not protect the seven-run lead. He was tagged for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth. The rally started with a double by Harper and included big hits by Andrew McCutchen, Odubel Herrera and J.T. Realmuto, who tied the game with a two-run single after a walk to Harper.

The surge continued in the sixth when Harper doubled home the go-ahead run and Didi Gregorius drove in two more with a double.

Relievers Bailey Falter and Hector Neris kept things relatively calm in the middle innings before the Phils erupted for five more runs in the seventh, three coming on Harper's 33rd homer.

Harper is hitting .314 with a 1.055 OPS and 77 RBIs. He certainly enhanced his MVP candidacy -- "I think he's earning it," Girardi said -- and the Phillies took a step forward in the standings. But they don't have offensive nights like this all the time and they're going to rely on the bullpen for three more starts the rest of the way.


Or are they?

After the game, Girardi hinted that he might try something different when the fifth spot comes up again in the rotation Tuesday against Baltimore. Adonis Medina, who finished on the mound Wednesday, could be a possibility to start and go as long as he's effective.

"I can't tell you what we're going to do," Girardi said. "It's something we're going to have to talk about. We're going to have to figure something out."

That's how it goes for an organization that has failed to draft, develop and acquire enough competent starting pitching to get through a 162-game season.

Wonder if Harper has any innings in that hose?

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