Phillies

Phillies

A 458-foot, three-run home run on a 98 mph fastball.

A walk-off two-run double against one of baseball's most accomplished closers of the last decade.

This was the kind of night that shows you why Bryce Harper is valued the way he is.

The Phillies were two outs away from yet another game that could have been classified as their worst loss of the season. What was once a five-run lead had turned into a two-run deficit when Hector Neris was victimized again by the Dodgers. This time it was rookie Matt Beaty with a three-run, pinch-hit home run off Neris in the ninth.

Another late-game implosion, especially following Monday's 16-2 embarrassment, would have taken the Phillies to a point even below rock bottom. It would have been another harbinger of doom. One walk-off win does not change the events of the last six weeks, but it does at least show these Phillies that they can beat the Dodgers. They can beat a good closer. They can respond even after the most deflating of circumstances.

"You live for those moments," Harper said. "That's what it's all about. Going in there, Jansen, one of the best closers in all of baseball, Dodgers-Phils. When you're facing the best in baseball, it's always a blast."

Don't get it twisted — they haven't done it enough, the Phillies as a group or Harper as an individual offensive player. This team should be better than 49-46. Harper's OPS should be higher than .850.

But this was the kind of win that can give a team some swagger. The Phillies hit Walker Buehler and they hit Kenley Jansen.

 

And in a game that was also televised nationally, the Phillies' brightest star delivered in his team's highest-pressure moment in weeks.

"It was a huge moment for Bryce and you could see it coming off the field after everybody was celebrating on the field, how important that was to him," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It meant a lot to him. He was clearly emotional and I understand there had been a lot of buildup that led to that moment. It was quite a release for him."

This felt like Harper's second really big moment with the Phillies, the first being his poetic blast at Nationals Park in his first game back in D.C. But this win went beyond him. The much-maligned Andrew Knapp, who entered with a .155 batting average, began the rally with a double. It came one batter after Adam Haseley hit a ball off Jansen's ankle. After the game, Jansen told Dodgers reporters that if he could have done it again, he would have exited the game.

Prior to Harper's game-winning double, Scott Kingery trimmed the deficit to one with an RBI single. Earlier in the night, Kingery homered on a 96 mph fastball up in the zone from Buehler.

The Phillies as a team have struggled with velocity this season but Tuesday was not an example of that.

"To see Scott go up to the top of the zone and hit 96-plus out to left field, that was pretty impressive because that's been the book on him," Kapler said. "Sliders off the plate away and then you run the heater up because he has such a good plane to his swing that he's good at getting underneath it. When you have a good four-seam fastball, you want to get above his barrel. So that was a really good sign.

"It's encouraging to see our guys catch up to velocity. We all have a lot of respect for Walker Buehler, he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. To put that kind of number up on him says a lot about our club and the grind in our at-bats today.

"After yesterday's loss, how brutal that was for us, and in some ways embarrassing ... nobody quit. I think that's the calling card for our team. We get knocked down, we get back up."

The Phillies have indeed responded well after awful losses this season. They just haven't yet turned it into a prolonged stretch of good baseball.

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