Red-hot Harper sets up Knapp's walk-off
PHILADELPHIA -- Somebody had to save the Phillies from a Gabe Kapler sweep Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.
Bryce Harper answered the call first. Andrew Knapp followed.
Harper hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning after the Phils blew a three-run lead, and Knapp hit a walk-off single to left in the ninth for a 6-5 victory over the Giants. It was the second walk-off hit of Knapp’s career.
It also saved the club from watching its former manager leave town with a sweep. The Phillies downplayed Kapler’s return to Philadelphia, but three consecutive losses to the skipper who ownership fired following the 2019 season would not have sat well with a frustrated fan base starved for a winner.
“I don’t think we really worried about that; we were just trying not to get swept,” Knapp said. “We kind of handed them one yesterday, and I think we all know that. To come back and take this one today is huge.”
The Phils should have won two out of three against the Giants. They carried a two-run lead into the eighth inning Tuesday, only to lose, 10-7.
“I don’t take so much into account who we’re playing,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “The bottom line is winning games. We probably should have won two out of three this series. You end up going 4-2 on a homestand, that’s pretty good. You end up going 2-4, that’s not good. We were able to salvage today. It was big for our guys to come back.”
It seemed like everybody contributed. Mickey Moniak hit an opposite-field three-run home run in the second inning to hand the Phillies a 3-0 lead. It was the first homer of his career. Rookie Nick Maton had three hits and scored a run. Brad Miller tied a career high with four hits and scored twice.
Right-hander Zach Eflin allowed one run in six innings. Spencer Howard struck out three in 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief. Héctor Neris struck out two in a scoreless ninth to earn the win.
After Brandon Kintzler allowed a game-tying three-run home run to pinch-hitter Darin Ruf in the seventh followed by an Andrew McCutchen error that led to the Giants’ go-ahead run, Harper stepped into the batter’s box with two outs in the seventh. He ripped a 1-0 slider from Giants right-hander Camilo Doval for a line-drive homer over the right-field wall.
Harper has been on a tear in his last five games, batting .647 (11-for-17) with two doubles, two home runs, four RBIs, five walks and a 1.845 OPS.
“The guy’s a game-changer,” Knapp said. “For him to be able to go out and put the stretch of at-bats he's put together so far, we all know he can do that. He knows he can do it. It's funny because the other team is trying to get him out, too, so for him to be able to just get three hits every night is really impressive. That guy cares. He cares a lot. He wants to win a lot. That was a big homer by him. It got us back in the game. We were kind of down and out there for a second. For him to come up and do what he did is why he is who he is.”
“It gave us a sense of encouragement,” Moniak said.
“To say he’s locked in is a pretty significant understatement,” Eflin said.
Harper worked a leadoff walk in the ninth. He got to second on Miller’s single to left. Knapp’s single to left got him home.
Harper bent down and touched home plate with his finger tips. Teammates mobbed Knapp.
“Everybody was pretty fired up,” Eflin said. “We were all standing up, all the guys inside the clubhouse, just ready to kind of go ballistic. I don’t know if we matched the energy out on the field, but we were freaking out pretty good.”
It’s fun to get a walk-off win, but was there any more emotion or importance to this one because they played this week against their former manager?
“I don’t know, you could say that,” Eflin said. “But at the end of the day, a walk-off is still a walk-off, and we’re going to react the way we do regardless of who it’s against. So like I said, we were fired up and we’re looking forward to a happy and fun flight to Colorado, and taking care of business out there.”