PHILADELPHIA -- Bryce Harper kept his head down as he walked toward the batter’s box in the bottom of the sixth inning in Game 2 of Friday’s seven-inning doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park.
Harper figures if he never makes eye contact with anybody in the opposing team’s dugout, they won't see him. Maybe they will not intentionally walk him. Maybe they will let him hit with the game on the line.
“I love those opportunities,” Harper said following the 8-7 victory over the Blue Jays to sweep the doubleheader. “I love those moments. This city and this team, they depend on me to come through in those moments and come up clutch in those moments. Anytime I can get up there with the game on the line, I will take my chances.”
Harper came up big. He crushed a two-out double off the wall, just next to the 409-foot sign in center field, to score two runs and tie the game. He then scored the go-ahead run from second base on Alec Bohm’s infield single combined with an error from Toronto second baseman Joe Panik.
All told, Harper went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and one walk in Game 2. He went 4-for-6 with two doubles, one home run, four RBIs and two walks across both games as the Phillies (26-25) swept their first doubleheader since September 2012 to remain in contention for the National League’s eight-team postseason field with nine games remaining in the regular season.
Thanks to a Giants loss on Friday, the Phillies hold the seventh seed in the NL.
“We feel good,” Harper said. “Our team is right where we need to be. We’re winning games. Two close [losses] against the Mets, but we’ve got to look ahead and do the things we can as a team to win these games. Nothing really matters from this point on. We won two games today, but we’ve got to flush that and get going tomorrow. We’ve got to keep playing our game and not really worry about where we fall.
"Get there. Once we get there, we’ll hopefully take care of what we need to and have some fun.”
Harper can help the cause, as everybody witnessed on Friday. After a nearly three-week slump, he is batting .343 (12-for-35) with five doubles, four home runs, seven RBIs and a 1.281 OPS in his last 10 games.
“It’s special,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s a special player. I know he’s worked really hard through this to try to get out of his thing. There were nights I would hear him hitting in the cage after games. He came up huge for us today in both games. It was great. Every coach or manager wants that guy that embraces the spotlight and is successful in it.”
Rookie catcher Rafael Marchan hit a game-tying three-run home run in the fourth inning, but the Phillies’ bullpen allowed two runs in the fifth to give Toronto a 7-5 lead. In the sixth, rookie Mickey Moniak walked and Marchan singled to left field with one out. Andrew McCutchen was called out on strikes for the second out. The pitch looked low to everybody except home-plate umpire Ramon De Jesus. Phillies hitting coach Joe Dillon said something to De Jesus, who ejected him.
But Harper answered. He ripped a 0-1 splitter from Rafael Dolis to deep center field. The ball left Harper’s bat at 112.9 mph, according to Statcast. He crushed it, but a big wind blowing straight in from center field knocked it down.
On almost any other night, that ball is gone.
Instead, Harper cruised into second and pumped his fists as he looked at his teammates in the dugout.
He scored the go-ahead run moments later.
“It’s our team, it’s what we do,” Harper said. “This whole city fights. We’ve got to go about it the right way, no matter who’s hurt, what we’re doing, how many losses we have, how many wins we have. All those games before, they don’t even matter. It’s what matters now. ... Like I said, there are some tough games in our division in the next week. There’s some good baseball that’s going to be played. We have to just worry about us. We can’t worry about anybody else.
“We take care of our own destiny. We just have to win games. Just give us a chance. I think in a three-game set, that first round, I think we go up pretty well. ... I’ll take [Zack] Wheeler and [Aaron] Nola up against anybody. We’ve just got to get there and get going.”