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.
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.
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.
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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