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Kapler: 'We win when Harper hits'

Phillies remain 5 games back of final NL Wild Card spot with victory
September 22, 2019

CLEVELAND -- While the Phillies can’t be officially eliminated from postseason contention this weekend, a second consecutive loss to the Indians would have certainly pushed Philadelphia to the edge of an earlier-than-anticipated offseason. That reality made Bryce Harper's violent and thunderous swing on Saturday night all the more meaningful. Harper’s

CLEVELAND -- While the Phillies can’t be officially eliminated from postseason contention this weekend, a second consecutive loss to the Indians would have certainly pushed Philadelphia to the edge of an earlier-than-anticipated offseason. That reality made Bryce Harper's violent and thunderous swing on Saturday night all the more meaningful.

Harper’s three-run homer off lefty reliever Oliver Perez traveled a projected 413 feet into the Cleveland night, according to Statcast, clearing the wall in Progressive Field's right-center field to turn a two-run deficit into a one-run Philadelphia lead in the top of the fifth. The Phillies would never lose their advantage in a 9-4 win over an Indians squad that is also in the thick of a Wild Card chase.

Box score

“He’s been tremendous in the second half of the season for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said of his star slugger. “We win when Harper hits.”

And hit, Harper did.

Harper’s bomb, his 33rd of the campaign, was part of Philadelphia’s four-run fifth inning. The long drive came on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, a 79.7 mph slider that spun down and in, running directly into Harper’s swing path. The 26-year-old outfielder, who had grounded out to third base against Perez on Friday night, didn’t miss this time around.

“That nine-pitch at-bat felt determined to me,” Kapler said. “He was determined to put the ball in play -- and put it in play hard.”

The home run was Harper’s 15th since Aug. 3, a stretch of 40 games. He has also collected 36 RBIs over that span.

“I just tried to go up there and hit something in the air, really try to get the guy in from third,” Harper said. “I got a pitch I could handle a little bit more and was able to do some damage.”

Jay Bruce provided the punctuation later in the frame by knocking a solo home run over the 19-foot wall in left field, extending the lead to 6-4. That homer, the 26th of the season for the veteran slugger, was just Bruce’s second hit since the All-Star break.

Brad Miller, who was part of the Tribe’s Opening Day roster this year, provided some additional thunder, slugging a pair of solo home runs against his former team, marking the ninth multi-homer game of his career.

Miller was frustrated when the Indians let him go in mid-April, but despite the giant smile on his face following the game, the veteran utility player said he would rather focus on helping his current team stay alive than dwell on any personal revenge.

“Honestly, it was just sweet because we’re fighting for every game,” Miller said. “They are, too, over there. That’s a really good team. That’s part of why I was frustrated in April, because that’s a really good team and I enjoyed it. But right now, wins, we need every win. Just to contribute feels pretty good.”

With the win, the Phillies continue to cling to a sliver of hope at the back of a six-team pack fighting for the pair of NL Wild Card slots. Philadelphia remains five games back of the final spot with nine games remaining.

Some credit for that remaining hope is due to lefty Jason Vargas, who settled down after some early struggles to pitch into the seventh on Saturday night. Vargas recovered from surrendering four early runs to limit Cleveland to just one hit over his final 4 2/3 innings, opening the door for Harper to have a meaningful at-bat later in the game.

Vargas exited after 6 2/3 innings, scattering five hits. He walked two and struck out eight en route to his first victory in a Phillies uniform.

“It’s nice to be able to stay competitive and keep us in the position to get back in the game,” Vargas said. “And then, golly, I can’t say I’ve seen a much more professional at-bat than the one Harper had against Perez. I think any time you see an at-bat like that from your main guy, it’s [impressive].”