Late rally puts Phils within half-game of Mets
WASHINGTON -- The Phillies spent their week at Nationals Park with a direct view from the visitors’ third-base dugout of the massive out-of-town scoreboard in right-center-field -- and they weren't shy about acknowledging it.
So when the Phils locked down Monday's win, they knew the first-place Mets had lost to the Marlins just two minutes earlier. Similarly, when Philadelphia recorded the final out of Tuesday's victory in D.C., New York was trailing in the ninth inning en route to another loss in Miami.
After both teams won on Wednesday, however, staggered start times meant the Phillies didn't have to watch any score other than their own on Thursday. With another Mets loss already in the books by the time Travis Jankowski stepped into the box to start the finale, the Phils took care of business behind yet another ninth-inning rally in a 7-6 win over the Nats.
The Phillies’ (56-53) fifth straight win moved them to within a half-game of the Mets (56-52) heading into the teams' three-game showdown beginning Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
“We’d be excited no matter who we’re playing, because these games all matter and anytime you’re on a streak like we are, you’re feeling good and you’re excited to play,” J.T. Realmuto said. “But this is obviously a big series with the Mets. It’s going to be huge. … This would be a big momentum builder for the rest of the year.”
Realmuto played a key role in setting up Friday’s battle for first place in the NL East. Trailing by two and down to the team’s final strike on Thursday, Realmuto lined a game-tying two-run double into the right-center field gap. Rhys Hoskins followed two batters later with a two-run double of his own to put Philadelphia ahead.
Those are the types of clutch plays that could ultimately make the difference in the NL East race.
"We've got to come up with the big hits. You’ve got to have a couple magical moments," Hoskins said. "I don't think that we're done with those. I think throughout the rest of the year, we probably are going to find ourselves in situations in games that are going to be pretty big."
The Phillies got plenty of those hits in the four-game sweep that started with a five-run ninth-inning rally on Monday night and also featured a three-run comeback on both Wednesday and Thursday. The end result was the club’s first four-game road sweep of a divisional opponent since 2009.
Though the team has gotten contributions from up and down the lineup, the trio of Hoskins, Realmuto and Bryce Harper are a combined 24-for-52 (.462) with 14 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs during the five-game winning streak.
"It's hard to sweep a series on the road. It's hard to sweep four games even at home, too," Hoskins said. "I think you can feel the momentum a little bit. ... It should be a really exciting series this weekend."
The Mets, meanwhile, are 2-6 in their last eight games and have lost three straight series after dropping three of four games against the last-place Marlins. New York will send Marcus Stroman to the mound for Friday's opener, while Kyle Gibson will be making his home debut for Philadelphia after an impressive first start in Pittsburgh.
"It's nice to have momentum, but as I've said, momentum starts with the starter the next day [and] whether it keeps going," manager Joe Girardi said. "I feel good about Gibby going out there and I'm sure they feel good about Stroman. It should be a good one."
With the Phillies looking to move into first place for the first time since May 8 on Friday -- which also marks the start of Alumni Weekend -- Harper expects a postseason-type atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park.
"I can't wait. I hope that place is rocking, all the way to the top," Harper said. "I'm really excited to see it. I can't wait to get there Friday night and get going."