The Phillies jumped out to a two-run lead against the Mets on Sunday Night Baseball but were unable to complete the sweep, falling 3-2 to end a four-game winning streak.
The Phils got exactly what they wanted with Bryce Harper at the plate with two outs in the ninth, representing the go-ahead run. Harper had another big all-around game but made the final out against Edwin Diaz, flying out to deep left field.
"My team gave me an opportunity in the ninth to put us ahead. I just missed that ball," Harper said. "Kinda devastating for me personally."
The Braves won their series finale in San Francisco earlier in the day, so the Phils (76-73) are two games back with 13 to play. They made up one game on Atlanta this weekend.
As the Braves move on to a four-game series in Arizona against the 101-loss Diamondbacks, the Phillies host the 102-loss Orioles the next three nights.
"He just got a tick under," manager Joe Girardi said of the Harper ball. "It was a great swing. I knew when it came off the bat it was probably going to be too high, but it was pretty loud."
Kyle Gibson started Sunday and pitched well but could not hold a small lead and the Phils were kept off the board after the fifth inning. He allowed three runs in 6⅔ innings and struck out nine. The game-winning blow was Jeff McNeil’s solo home run to begin the bottom of the seventh after Gibson hit for himself in the top of the inning.
The Phillies have lost all four of Gibson’s starts this month, though it was a positive sign to see him pitch deep into a game after allowing 15 runs in 15 innings in his prior three September starts.
Harper set the tone for the Phillies by manufacturing a run with his legs, driving in another and saving two runs in the field. He worked a two-out walk against Mets lefty Rich Hill in the first inning and scored from first on J.T. Realmuto’s bloop to shallow left-center. Harper was running on the pitch and never stopped, scampering straight through the stop sign of third base coach Dusty Wathan. The throw improperly went to second base, where Realmuto slid in safely. By the time the Mets got the ball to the plate, it was too late.
"I talked to Dusty after the fact, he said he was late on it as well," Harper said. "I felt like I was too far away from the bag to really stop. Got lucky enough they overthrew the cut-off."
Harper drove in the Phils' second run with a sacrifice fly to deep center field in the fifth. He has an extra-base hit and/or an RBI in 11 straight games and 20 of his last 24.
He saved two runs with a difficult sliding catch to end the eighth inning. Any wasted movement and the ball probably drops.
Despite losing the final game, the Phillies won the season series against the Mets, 10-9, taking six of the last seven meetings. They are 40-30 this season against the NL East, same as the Braves.
The Phillies have seven games before their all-important showdown in Atlanta from September 28-30. They have three with the Orioles and four with the Pirates this week, all at home. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are a combined 92 games under .500, though the Phillies have not made MLB’s worst teams look like MLB’s worst teams this season. The week ahead is another major opportunity.
"Gonna have to take it game by game," Harper said. "Don’t take anything for granted."