Jean Segura continued to wear out New York Mets pitching, Bryce Harper added some shine to his MVP candidacy and Aaron Nola tasted victory for the first time in nearly two months as the surging Phillies kept on rolling with a 5-3 win at Citi Field in Queens on Saturday night.
About 30 minutes after the Phillies finished off their fourth straight win, the Atlanta Braves suffered their fourth straight defeat in a 2-0 loss at San Francisco.
All this left the Phillies just a game back in the NL East race with two weeks to go in the regular season and set the stage for some drama on Sunday. The Braves play a 4 p.m. game at San Francisco. The Phillies play a 7 p.m. game against the Mets in New York.
It’s possible the two teams could be tied for the top spot in the division by the time the late news comes on Sunday night.
The Phillies, 76-72 with 14 games to play, will look to sweep the Mets behind Kyle Gibson before returning home to open the final homestand of the season Monday night against Baltimore.
On the homestand, the Phillies will play three against Baltimore and four against Pittsburgh before heading to Atlanta for a showdown with the Braves on September 28. The Orioles are the worst team in the American League and the Pirates are the second-worst team in the National League. They are a combined 90 games under .500.
After their game Sunday against the Giants, the Braves stay out west for four against Arizona and three-plus against San Diego. (The two teams will resume a suspended game during the three-game series.)
Arizona has the worst record in the NL, but the Diamondbacks are capable of causing teams trouble, as the Phillies learned when they were swept by them in August.
The Phils got several clutch performances in their important win over the Mets on Saturday night.
Segura belted a pair of solo home runs, one in the first inning and one in the third, against Mets’ starter Carlos Carrasco to stake the Phillies to a 2-0 lead. Segura is hitting .324 (79 for 244) with 10 homers and 32 RBIs in 61 career games against the Mets.
“I see the ball really good when we play these guys,” he said afterward.
Harper continued to make his run at the NL MVP award with an important two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning. The hit gave the Phils a 5-1 lead and left Harper with 27 RBIs in his last 24 games and 79 for the season. He leads the majors with a 1.056 OPS.
Perhaps the most encouraging contribution of the night came from Nola, who pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He walked one and struck out nine to earn his first win since July 25.
“I feel like it had been a while,” Nola said. “We’re in a race. I just want to do my job the best I can.”
Manager Joe Girardi sensed Nola was running out of gas and removed him from a one-run game in the sixth. Jose Alvarado came on and struck out Michael Conforto with a man on base for the third out of the inning and the Phils pulled away with three runs in the seventh. The rally was fueled by doubles from Brad Miller, Freddy Galvis and Harper.
Nola had been 0-2 with a 5.10 ERA in nine starts since his last win. The team was just 3-6 in those games.
Nola’s September struggles are well-documented. Over the last three seasons, he has made 15 starts in the month of September. This was just the team’s fourth win in those games and it was a big one.
Perhaps the outing will provide Nola with some momentum over the final two weeks of the season. He has two starts remaining.
“I think he has to be encouraged by the way he pitched tonight,” Girardi said. “I feel good about him every time he pitches.”